December 01, 2009


Last night I was interviewed for an article called "Families Await News From Afghanistan." I only played a small role in the article, probably because I wasn't sure exactly what was expected of me. Truthfully, I felt that giving my opinion before Pres Obama's speech was a waste of time, because the specifics of what he'd say is what really means something. Who cares what I think the night before I know what's going on? The reporter -- who was very nice and professional and quoted me accurately (except that I know for a fact I always called him "President Obama" and not just "Obama," as I was quoted as saying. Out of respect for the office of the presidency, I make a point of never calling him just by his last name.) -- asked me what I thought of the proposed additional 30,000 troops and what I thought about the inclusion of an exit strategy. And my answer, which is not conducive to news articles, is that it depends.

What I answered was that it depends on what the 30,000 will be used for. Will they be sent to urban or rural areas? Will they be doing counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism? And as far as an exit goes, I said it depends on whether Pres Obama announces what the end game is. Will he state concrete goals? Will he announce a victory strategy? It makes no sense to denote an arbitrary end to a war based on running out the clock; what does victory look like to the Obama administration?

And I obviously over-thought the substance of the article, because I was apparently over-expectant on the substance of the speech.

I wanted details. I can't form any opinions on whether we're making the right move if I don't know the specifics. And I feel like I didn't learn anything new from listening to Pres Obama's speech tonight than what I already knew from what got leaked ahead of time. (Except I learned there is something called a "tool of mass destruction." Which sounds more like a witty insult than something serious.)

What I wanted was Perot or Beck-style charts and graphs. I wanted another version of FDR's fireside chat On the Progess of the War.

That is the reason why I have asked you to take out and spread before you (the) a map of the whole earth, and to follow with me in the references which I shall make to the world-encircling battle lines of this war.
Look at your map.
Heavy bombers can fly under their own power from here to the southwest Pacific, either way, but the smaller planes cannot. Therefore, these lighter planes have to be packed in crates and sent on board cargo ships. Look at your map again; and you will see that the route is long – and at many places perilous – either across the South Atlantic all the way (a)round South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, or from California to the East Indies direct. A vessel can make a round trip by either route in about four months, or only three round trips in a whole year.

In spite of the length, (and) in spite of the difficulties of this transportation, I can tell you that in two and a half months we already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned by American pilots and crews, which are now in daily contact with the enemy in the Southwest Pacific. And thousands of American troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the air but on the ground as well.

In this battle area, Japan has had an obvious initial advantage. For she could fly even her short-range planes to the points of attack by using many stepping stones open to – her bases in a multitude of Pacific islands and also bases on the China coast, Indo-China coast, and in Thailand and Malaya (coasts). Japanese troop transports could go south from Japan and from China through the narrow China Sea, which can be protected by Japanese planes throughout its whole length.

I ask you to look at your maps again, particularly at that portion of the Pacific Ocean lying west of Hawaii. Before this war even started, the Philippine Islands were already surrounded on three sides by Japanese power. On the west, the China side, the Japanese were in possession of the coast of China and the coast of Indo-China which had been yielded to them by the Vichy French. On the North are the islands of Japan themselves, reaching down almost to northern Luzon. On the east, are the Mandated Islands – which Japan had occupied exclusively, and had fortified in absolute violation of her written word.

Read that and imagine any recent president talking to us citizens this way. Imagine being treated like you have a brain in your head, and that you're a part of what's taking place. Imagine your president asking you to follow his complex speech on a map or with pen and paper.

Instead, we got "We will not target other people...because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours." And praise for teachers, community organizers, and "Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad."

That's all well and good, but I wanted details about Afghanistan.

I don't know why I expected I would get that.


Vodkapundit drunkblogged.

he’s decided to send an additional 30,000 troops for 30 months. That’s not a strategic decision. That’s a new-car warranty.

Bad writing. Lame delivery. Tepid response — from cadets ORDERED to be nice. And a strategic vision equal parts High School Essay Content and low-rent public relations.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:08 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 953 words, total size 6 kb.

1 I'm chicken, I didn't listen. I am prone to high blood pressure, no need to aggravate it. I can read it.
Every time I watch him I wonder why SNL doesn't copy that swing the head from side to side to read the teleprompters. And the cadenced speech, just catching up with the next line. If one of the famous newsreaders did it that badly they wouldn't be where they are. 

Posted by: Ruth H at December 01, 2009 11:15 PM (zlUde)

2 I listened to it on the radio.  I have difficulty taking him seriously when he talks.  I'd love to give him a blank slate and give him credit where credit is due, but the main thought that came to me as I was hearing him talk about military strategy was, "What on earth does he know about military strategy, REALLY?"

He says all the pretty things people want to hear, but I can't help but think it's because someone In The Know wrote it for him -- not because he actually knows or believes what he's talking about.  It saddens me that a man in charge of our nation can be so disappointing, especially when it comes to the safety and security of our nation and those who volunteer to go out and lay their lives on the line -- often multiple times -- for that safety and security.

I had a wailing baby in the background for most of the speech, so I didn't get to hear it all, but I did try to listen without getting my hackles up.  That's hard.  The sound of P. Obama's voice alone gets my hackles up, even in parody.

Posted by: Deltasierra at December 02, 2009 12:33 AM (+Fbnb)

3 "He’s decided to send an additional 30,000 troops for 30 months. That’s not a strategic decision. That’s a new-car warranty."

I SO stole that.

Posted by: Chuck Z at December 02, 2009 12:40 AM (bMH2g)

4 "That is the reason why I have asked you to take out and spread before you (the) a map of the whole earth," You know, most people at that time actually HAD a map of the whole earth. Now most people wouldn't know how to read a map much less keep one available for study.

Posted by: Pamela at December 02, 2009 03:46 AM (sZIUh)

5 Sarah,

I can't form any opinions on whether we're making the right move if I don't know the specifics.

One could argue that Obama couldn't reveal the specifics because he didn't want the enemy to know his strategy. The trouble with that argument is that he did reveal when the troops will leave. I bet the enemy is planning right now what to do until 2011 - and beyond.

Why 2011? Why 30,000? Why these seemingly arbitrary numbers? How does he know the mission will be accomplished by adding X number of troops by date Y? This seems to be an attempt to reassure the American public - don't worry, our troops won't be there forever - while at the same looking as if he is Doing Something. Which he is, but that's an unacceptable third choice to me. Here are the only two I like: Win and Leave ... or Just Leave.

And what is that Something, exactly? Sounds like Afghanization to me.

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.


We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

What makes Obama think all this - and more! - can be done in 18 months?  How much more?

And we will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

Our forces have to protect and feed Afghans?

What General McChrystal, Sec Def Gates and President Obama need to remember is that they are sworn by oath to defend this country and our people - not protect the civilian population of another country or rebuild their country with our tax dollars and the blood of our children!

- John Bernard, USMC (26 years)

I suggest we scale down our goals. I like one of the comments on Bernard's blog:

COIN has a high cost in blood and treasure. The only way out is to have a clear mission - Bin Laden - and leave.

Posted by: Amritas at December 02, 2009 04:08 AM (u0BIk)

6 To accomplish that "clear mission", the rules of engagement need to be changed:

Part of the strategy should be World War II Rules of Engagement.


Right now, American soldiers and Marines are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan in spite of the fact that we have the most powerful military in the world and the enemy is a joke militarily. Why? Because we are afraid to use our military assets for fear of bad public relations from media and foreigners who hold us to ridiculously high standards while holding the enemy to no standards at all. The enemy deliberately targets innocent civilians who have no military value. We would not do that. But neither should we let Americans and our allies continue to die in order to avoid being bad-mouthed by hidden-agenda-driven, hair-trigger critics who apply a double standard [and who hate us no matter what we do -A]


When the Rules of Engagement get too extreme, as in this case, the mission is no longer a military one. Prohibiting the military from using their guns is ridiculous. If the military cannot use their guns to accomplish their mission or protect their troops, they should not be there at all.

And they should just leave.

But what about the Afghans? They have to fix their own problems. The US has tried before, not just in a certain Southeast Asian country, but also in Afghanistan itself:

Guess what, General [McChrystal]? The United States of America has already tried improving Afghan safety and quality of life, and on a colossal scale, and it just didn't stick. And back then, between 1946 and 1979, there was no Taliban "insurgency" complicating the social work of nation-building.

Yet the Great Society lives on!

"[...] see if what passes for US military strategy doesn't sound an awful lot like Great Society addle-pated liberalism."

- Diana West

Nation-building is the ultimate form of socialism. American conservatives resent liberals' attempts to rebuild America, even though the two groups have a lot more in common than Americans and Afghans. If America cannot be transformed through socialist programs, how can America transform other countries through socialist programs? We might as well terraform Mars.

As an analytical exercise, try to understand Afghanistan as a hostile planet to which we have been forced, in self-defense, to deploy military colonies.


This is a "war of the worlds" in the cultural sense, a head-on collision between civilizations from different galaxies.

And the aliens don't come in peace.

But they can come to America! Our open door is our greatest weakness. Obama said,

In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.

This is news to me. But I'm not surprised by enemy infiltration, or by Obama's failure to declare the closing of the doors.

We don't just need WWII rules of engagement. We need WWII immigration policies. How many Axis immigrants came to the US during 1942-1945?

It's been said ad infinitum that we fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. The trouble is that the enemy is already over here. And by "the enemy", I don't mean random Muslims. I mean jihadis.

I actually agreed with Obama when he said,

We have to invest in our homeland security, because we cannot capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

No more blind eyes to jihadi warning signs. No more Fort Hoods.

We must send a clear message to jihadis:

You are not wanted in this country. And if you dare to threaten us from abroad, we will be back in the Middle East, and you will end up like Saddam. DEAD.

As Sha'i ben-Tekoa wrote about Iraq back in 2003,

It is always possible to return, if necessary. An “in-and-out” strategy might be more successful and cheaper in blood and money in the long term than an indefinite occupation taking casualties all the time.

But no.

Instead of clearly defined, doable short-term operations, we're told to expect miracles in 18 months while our weak spot remains vulnerable. Why should we believe Obama? As Deltasierra asked,

What on earth does he know about military strategy, REALLY?

Obama is just a teleprompter-reading prop. Who wrote his script? Who came up with what Vodkapundit described as "a strategic vision equal parts High School Essay Content and low-rent public relations"? Who is responsible for the men and women hurt or killed for the sake of a ... "new car warranty"!?

Whose fault is this?

Forget them for a moment. What if you (Sarah, anybody) wrote Obama's speech for him? What would you have wanted him to say?

Sarah asked,

[W]hat does victory look like to the Obama administration?

I'd like to ask you and your readers, "What does victory look like to you?"

Posted by: Amritas at December 02, 2009 04:13 AM (u0BIk)


Remind me, did Pres Bush provide details of his surge back in Jan 2007?

Posted by: Me at December 02, 2009 12:39 PM (pM88+)

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