Obama unveiled the details Tuesday of his long awaited strategy for the war in Afghanistan, and in its essence, it follows the same approach Bush finally agreed to - in desperation - when it looked like the war in Iraq was sure to be lost. That "surge" strategy proved to be a winner, and for most intents and purposes, is the same one being adopted by Obama at the urging of U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of our forces there.
That surge strategy focuses not just on finding and killing terrorists (in this case, the Taliban), but just as equally on providing security for population centers so the people feel safe supporting our efforts without fear of violent reprisal. So the president has acquiesced in most of McChrystal's request and is sending him 30,000 additional troops - although he did not explain why he did not send all those that his hand-picked general had requested, or even more, which would increase our chances of victory.
Obama is correct in that our country has a vital interest in preventing the Taliban from regaining control of Afghanistan.
"The American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border," he said. "To abandon this area now - and to rely only on efforts against al-Qaida from a distance - would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al-Qaida, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.
"It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. ... We must keep the pressure on al-Qaida, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region."
Unfortunately, Obama tied his new surge to a promise to start withdrawing our troops by July 2011 - barely a year after all the troops in his "surge" are finally in place, and just in time for the 2012 presidential election campaign. While we're as eager to see our involvement there end as everybody else, we have never heard of a country winning a war by announcing it would leave the battlefield by a specific date. It is a clueless strategy. It's as if President Franklin Roosevelt had announced that Pearl Harbor was a day of infamy and we were at war with Japan, but that - oh, by the way - we would begin returning our troops to the States in July 1943, regardless of whether we were winning or not. Or if after launching them into Normandy on D-Day, he had given Eisenhower a six-month deadline to oust Hitler. Even Bush waited until the results of his Iraq surge were clear before starting the troop drawdown there.
Obama also complained of his war's high cost and said it would have to be dealt with. He did not specifically endorse the "war tax" being bandied about by some Capitol Hill Democrats, but don't be surprised to see that happen. It's sad: So many of his fellow liberal are willing to pulverize the budget to pay for health care "reform," the GM takeover and "cash for clunkers," but aren't willing to pay for national security.
Obama came into office having touted the war in Afghanistan as the "right" war, as opposed to Bush's "wrong" war in Iraq. So although many observers strongly suspected that Obama was not enthused about winning either of the two, and even though much of his party has turned on the Afghanistan war now that it has lost its appeal as a "talking point" with which to bash Bush, Obama has little choice but to continue the fight.
The president's lack of enthusiasm for the war, and for winning, were obvious in his speech Tuesday. We just hope our troops - and the Taliban - didn't notice.