Something is missing at WhiteHouse.gov

The savants at WhiteHouse.gov managed to cut off the top of the commander in chief’s head in the video they posted of his address this evening on Afghanistan (click to play and see for yourself; let us know in the comments if they have fixed it).

Doesn’t leave one with a tremendous amount of confidence in implementation of The New Way Forward. One might even conclude that the policy is thoughtless (I’m here all night, folks).

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9 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Perhaps...

    Perhaps at some point this evening you'll have time to comment on the substance, rather then cosmetics, of this significant prime-time address.

  2. Didn't Enjoy

    The speech reminded me of a smart Bush.  

    We'll be there forever.  

    (This is really sad to say because I really love Obama.)

    • Ditto

      I am worried for three reasons:

      1) This is a foreign policy guided by domestic politics

      I think it is deplorable when lives on the line to triangulate on issues of war and peace, life and death. Clearly the President is reading the polls, he had a lot to say to those of us skeptical of continuing the war, mainly his lines that this was not Vietnam and that we are not there to occupy or nation build. Yet he also knows that he needs to do something and that being hawkish is generally a better political posture to take than being dovish. So the hawks want 45k, the doves want to leave 10k and eventually leave, he meets everyone in the middle by saying 30k and creating a timetable. The problem is the 'something for everyone' strategy is a great way to win support for domestic issues but a horrible way to win a war.

      Second he gave this speech to a domestic audience, when a truly effective speech would have been to an international one. Since it was geared towards the American people it made very selfish assumptions about our allies sticking with us, abandoned promises to the Afghan people as "costing too much for American taxpayers' and ended with a bizarre logic that we are a great nation not because we have great ideals we want to spread around the world but because our economy gives us great power. An awful connotation if you ask me, and Obama forgot that the Afghan people whose future he just said 'isnt worth the cost to American taxpayers' and the allies who he is committing to our effort without their consent also have CNN and heard these words. It was very much an example of American exceptionalism but lacking the ideals that make even that dangerous fairy tale ideology so seducing. Basically he argued that we are powerful and will do what we want because we are powerful, whereas at least Bush said we will do what is right because we are powerful. Both wrong headed and unilateral statements, but ironically Bush's sounds a lot more progressive and idealistic.

      2) Terrible talking points

      He stated basically that Afghanistan attacked us, equated the Taliban with Al Qaeda, argued the Afghan people want us there and don't want the Taliban there, assumed our allies would stick with us, and gave up the humanitarian justifications for continued involvement. All of these statements are terrible errors.

      AQ attacked us from Afghanistan, Afghanistan never attacked us. Second the Taliban is not a threat to the external security of the US homeland, only to our troops occupying their country, AQ is a threat and one that we should focus on. The Afghan people don't want us there and they like the Taliban, our presence has increased its recruitment levels, and it is fast becoming a 'catch all' opposition to the corrupt Karzai regime and the horrific war lords that back it. Frankly neither the Taliban nor the government we are backing can claim legitimacy as the one the people actually want. Also our allies, especially the UK and NATO want to get out fast and will likely leave before we do leaving us to carry the burden alone like in Iraq and Vietnam. Also the humanitarian justifications are basically the only tools we have to win the war, in the sense of defeating the Taliban. Offering the Afghani's a democracy and a government free from the corruption of Karzai and the theocratic oppression of the Taliban is the only way to conceivably win over the people and Obama gave up that leverage because he gave a very selfish speech geared to war weary Americans.

      3) Moderate Escalation is the Worst Kind

      Basically Bush gave Obama a pretty bad deck of cards at the poker table when it comes to Afghanistan, the only real solution is to go all in and hope that scares/defeats your opponents or to fold and keep what you have. Instead Obama is following the strategy of making sizable but in the short term feasible raises that make him feel proactive yet responsible while really sucking him deeper and deeper into the hole. So he will keep raising and raising until there is nothing left to do but go all in and fold, and at that point he has already gambled so much it will be even harder for him to fold even though he knows he will lose. And in the end when he finally makes that decision it leaves him with fewer chips than he had before.

      LBJ made the same strategy in Vietnam. Moderate escalation which eventually created a situation where the US did not seize the initiative when it had victories and it made it incredibly hard to pull out when it was clear we were headed for defeat-the logic being we have put so much in already why not keep putting more in.

      So I would argue that this solution will only waste American lives and delay the inevitable pull-out. Obama hopes it will allow America to save face, but the reality is we would be in a much better position now to declare victory and go home then we will be after another 3,000 dead and 38 billion dollars down the hole with no more signs of victory than when we started this new strategy.  

      • I disagree

        LBJ perpetuated an attempt to stop a nationalist uprising emerging from the people of North and South Vietnam. President Obama correctly differentiated the Afghanistan/Pakistan situation from Vietnam in this portion of his speech (emphasis mine):

        I recognize that there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the prominent arguments that I have heard, and which I take very seriously.

        First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. 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.

        I think that "plotting along its border" is a carefully nuanced way of saying "in Pakistan."

        I think it's important to temper our various emotional reactions with the reality of the situation we face. I think President Obama is doing just that.

        • Respectfully Disagree

          He is conflating the nation of Afghanistan with Al Qaeda, the small group of Islamic radicals that attacked us on 9/11. We have largely defeated them in Afghanistan, the Taliban is no longer harboring them, and the Taliban is openly stating it wants no partnership with Al Qaeda. The Taliban have never attacked the US, and this particular incarnation of the Taliban, mostly a catch all resistance to the corrupt Karzai regime, is not even the same Taliban that harbored Al Qaeda nearly a decade ago. So to me it was a muddled speech that called on the one hand for a premature exit strategy, a time table, and a small escalation with a commitment to no nation building while at the same time calling for a civil escalation, more money, more development, more aid to the Karzai government-hmm that sounds like nation building to me. If Al Qaeda is already defeated and we are fighting the Taliban how is that protecting American security?

          I am all for sending in more forces to secure the border, to hunt down AQ, and to assist Pakistan in both of those operations. I see no reason why any more Americans should sacrifice their lives for the Karzai government in an Afghan civil war that has no baring on our national security or interest. And I am frankly unsure which goal Obama was asking our soldiers to sacrifice their lives for, the first goal is a lot more worthy than the second, which is wholly unworthy of their blood.  

          • I think we're closer than it may seem

            I think he's using Afghanistan as a cover for the real target, western Pakistan. He can't announce that the Al Qaeda/Taliban presence in Pakistan is our target -- if he did, he essentially declares war on the Pakistani government (by accusing them of failing to act). Sabutai reminded me, in another thread, that the Pakistan military tends to be independent from the civilian government. I think that's the key here.

            You asked "If Al Qaeda is already defeated and we are fighting the Taliban how is that protecting American security?" Here's how, in my opinion: the Pakistani version of Al Qaeda/Taliban is using western Pakistan to regroup and coordinate attacks on western interests including the United States. The Pakistani military does have a nuclear arsenal. If we fail to stop this cancer in Pakistan, we face a nuclear-armed Jihad. In my view, that threat is more immediate than Iran and far more immediate than Iraq ever was.

            I agree with you that the political outcome in Afghanistan is consequential to US interests, and I think I heard President Obama say that he shares that view -- hence his timeline for withdrawal.

            Pakistan is the key, not Afghanistan.

          • $quot;He is conflating the nation of Afghanistan with Al Qaeda$quot;

            Duh!  The Afghan Taliban regime harbored al-Qaeda and could again if given the chance.  That's why we're there.  If the Taliban wants to follow the PLO's path and go from terror organization to a legitimate party, great, but we must make sure they do.

  3. I think he convinced me

    I spent some more time with a map. He can't say "we've decided to take matters in Pakistan into our own hands." I think the additional forces will end up on the border, where they will "protect the Afghan people" by closing the back door in advance of a Pakistani military push from the front door. I think western Pakistan is the target, and Afghanistan is the excuse.

    I think that the immediate threat of a nuclear-armed Jihad comes from Pakistan, not Iran. I think this decision is the option on the table for addressing that threat.

    Here, from the text of his speech, is the most important news (emphasis mine):

    Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

    We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

    In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

    In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

    It's Pakistan, not Afghanistan, folks. I think he's chosen the best option available.

  4. It was a good speech.

    O'Reilly, Rove, et al were trashing Obama for not being more impassioned about winning, adn for beign too academic and cool - but geesh!  That's his style!  HE'd have sounded silly 'pounds fist on table' (an RMG joke).

    His analysis was fair. He mentioned that terror attempts in the US had not ceased, but had been prevented - in the same unenviable position as the last President, knowing about aborted incidents, but unable to provide details, hence attempting to prove a negative by saying that efforts had been successful because nothing had happened. I'm not crazy about the timeline, but it was more flexible than reported beforehand, and vague enough so AQ won't simply wait until we leave to butcher the collaborators.

    I've said for 8 years, and I say it now on behalf of Obama - the President of the United States has access to information that none of us do.  I honestly beleive that Obama was shocked by some things he learned as President that he had no access to as a legislator, and he has changed his mind in light of those facts.

    He is steering a middle path, and seems seriosu and involved.  Well done.

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