The goals were narrow, and delivered without regard to America’s moral obligation to Afghanistan. Peter Beinart on Obama’s missed opportunity.The best that can be said about President Obama’s West Point speech is that it was civil. Obama did not accuse opponents of the Afghan surge of appeasement; he did not imply that he has a proprietary relationship to 9/11 or a commitment to America’s security that his political opponents lack. The speech was not demagogic, and after George W. Bush, we can at least be thankful for that.But it left me cold. Militarily, we are plunging deeper into Afghanistan, but emotionally, we are getting out. There was virtually nothing in the speech about our moral obligation to the Afghan people, a people to whom America promised much and has delivered scandalously little. As defined in the speech, Obama’s goals for Afghanistan are strikingly narrow. First, to “deny al Qaeda a safe haven”—a goal we could probably achieve with some Special Operations dudes and drone strikes from the air. Second, to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government”—basically, to insure that a bad status quo doesn’t get much worse. Third, to “strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take the lead responsibly for Afghanistan’s future.” It’s hard to know exactly what Obama means by “responsibly,” but if he is serious about starting to substantially withdraw U.S. troops in the summer of 2011, only a year after the surge reinforcements arrive, Afghanistan’s security forces and government won’t “responsibly” be able to do much more than they can do now.
Peter Beinart: The Opposite of Rousing – The Daily Beast
Jacob Laksin is a senior writer for Front Page Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of The New Leviathan (Crown Forum, 2012), and One-Party Classroom (Crown Forum, 2009). Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @jlaksin.