Last night was a great night for political junkies. From 7-8 we had a surprisingly explosive debate between the four Democrats vying to represent their party in the special election to succeed the late Senator Kennedy. Then, at 8, President Obama took over the airways to announce his new war strategy in Afghanistan.
I thought this was one of the best speeches of the Obama Presidency. For the most part he stayed away from “political” rhetoric and focused on laying out the case for increased troop levels in a clear and convincing manner. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I was a supporter of the war in Afghanistan back in 2002 and I do believe our success or failure in that country will have long-lasting consequences for America and for the stability of the region. However, no matter what your opinion on the merits of the war is the fact remains that we are there and, due to irresponsible decisions by the previous administration, we have lost ground. I don’t believe leaving right now is an option (as much as I’d like it to be) and, if you believe people on the ground, maintaining the status quo is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, I support the President’s plan to send in more troops and am gratified to hear him lay out a clear and realistic mission for them, as well as an exit strategy. To those who don’t like putting out a timeline for withdrawal, I would argue that such an announcement is critical to show President Karzai and the Afghan people that we are serious about turning over the security of the country to them and that they must step up to the plate. However, I truly believe that, in 18 months, if the situation is not what we hope it will be, President Obama will reassess his withdrawal timeline. Hey, at least we have an exit strategy – something the Bush administration forgot to consider as they planned their invasions of both Afghanistan AND Iraq.
The men and women in uniform have already given so much (one only needed to look around the room at West Point and in the various living rooms across the world where CNN had cameras to see the true cost of this war) and to ask them to give more is so hard. But I do believe the President when he says that he asked the hard questions and considered all options before making this incredibly difficult decision. It may not work, but I applaud him for taking a stand and setting out a plan that, at least on paper, gives us the best chance of success.