Last night, Barack Obama gave the speech he has been dreading since he took the Oath of Office, the one he put off as long as he possibly could. He had to stand in front of his progressive left-wing base and tell them that he was actually going to keep one campaign promise they had probably expected, given his track record, he was going to break. Sure, he’s giving our soldiers a mission that’s so poorly-defined that it practially guarantees failure and he told the Islamist butchers how long they have to hide out and rebuild, but let’s not underestimate the amount of courage it took for the President to tell his anti-military constituency that they won’t be getting their Afghanistan withdraway pony for Christmas (via memeorandum). He should get some praise from those of us on the right for that.
We should also praise the President for being the first Democratic Commander-in-Chief in my lifetime to deploy a sizeable number of troops to defend our national interests. Also, let’s give him credit for slamming the progressive cant that America is a rapacious imperialist pillager of weaker nations. Saying those things, bucking the most cherished beliefs of his most faithful supporters (and the folks who are worth a lot of campaign cash!) was probably the most difficult thing he’s done since he took the Oath of Office.
So it’s no wonder the speech was horribly stilted and confused, and make no mistake, it was terrible. Last night marked the first time in history that our President has ordered troops into war with explicit orders not to defeat the enemy (indeed, the words “win” or “victory’ didn’t show up anywhere). He had to resort to some apparent dishonestly to explain why his delay wasn’t really dithering. His entire strategy, and the only part of the speech that was aimed at most of us, could be summed up as “I’m going to send in 30,000 troops who will slow down the Taliban for 18 months, after which the Afghan government will hopefully be able to handle them”.
But all of that is explainable once you understand that you most likely weren’t the target audience. If you’re not wearing an SEIU purple t-shirt, or ACORN boxers, or have a faded “Selected, not Elected” bumper sticker on your car, then you weren’t meant to understand most of the speech anyhow. Why else would the President actually spend a third of his speech recounting history that most of us already know? Who but an anti-war zealot would insist on a firm withdrawal date from a war, victory or no? Where else but the progressive base would he need to make explicit that we’ll be limiting ourselves to hunting down the folks who hit us on 9/11 instead of defeating all the Islamist butchers?
I imagine a lot of people are going to criticize this speech over the next week or so for its paucity of real strategy and its halfheartedness, and I suppose it deserves some criticism. But I think the President did what he needed to do. He hitched up his belt, looked the left-wing right int he eyes, and told them that he was going to actually use the military to kill a couple Islamists. No, he didn’t use the word “terrorists” and no, he’s not really going to kill many of them, but in this case something is a lot better than nothing. Perhaps now that he’s faced his biggest fear, he’ll be less afraid to act as Commander-in-Chief more often.