Reviewing President Obama's Speech On Afghanistan

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 3, 2009

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It is the subject of my latest column for the New Ledger. A sampling:

In the wake of President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan, I am left with certain questions, even as I generally approve of the President’s plan to send more troops to combat the Taliban. My most basic concern is that some details of the President’s plan–and certain elements of the rhetoric he employed in his speech at West Point–will serve to undermine his effort to bring stability to Afghanistan, and to further American national security interests in the process.

Read it all. And while you are at it, read this from the New York Times, which is less-than-flattering in many ways, and which shows that Peter Feaver and I have roughly the same concerns about the speech:

Although Mr. Obama had spoken during his presidential campaign of the need to send troops to Afghanistan, that was hardly a central theme of his campaign, and he made it clear Tuesday that he was aware of the unease among Democrats that the expanded effort in Afghanistan would take resources away from domestic priorities. He repeatedly cited the poor economy and explicitly stated that cost was a factor in his deliberations.

Still, Mr. Obama may have made his task even harder with his public display of uncertainty in the three months since Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal first warned of failure in Afghanistan without more troops. Now he has to demonstrate that he really is committed to the war — and to the strategy he has come up with to win it.

His message is “heavily laced with language aimed at mollifying his base, which is strongly antiwar, rather than reassuring the middle and those who support the war now,” said Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion and a former Bush adviser. “It’s a triangulation heavy on trying to win over the people who probably can’t be won over. And a lot of that messaging could sow doubts.”

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