I missed the speech last night and spent most of today playing catch up (while not dealing with other pressing issues). As far as I can tell, the basics are this:
30,000+ more troops to Afghanistan;
Withdrawal in 18 months, provided that;
Conditions are permitting.
To which I say: I can get behind that.
Let’s be frank: President Obama has seen the problems in Afghanistan and realized they are as serious as the right has argued. He has defied his own party and the his fiercest supporters in pledging more troops to the fight. He has suggested a timeline for withdrawal that is wholly dependent on the situation on the ground. This is essentially everything we on the neocon-right could have hoped for. It’s a surge coupled with an understanding of what we’re fighting for coupled with no real timeline for withdrawal.
And let’s be clear on this: The supposed timeline that Obama has laid out is no such thing. He said that troops will “begin” to withdraw in 18 months if conditions allow. If you can’t see the wiggle room dripping off the teleprompter, then you’re a blind man.
If we on the right can’t get behind this plan, there’s nothing that Obama could have said last night that we could have gotten behind. Those of us who have been arguing that Afghanistan is NOT a lost cause — is NOT a backwoods we abandon to terrorists — have a duty to say “President Obama, we are with you on this.” David Frum is absolutely, 100 percent, corrent. Obama’s is a move that will, in all likelihood, cost him dearly on the left (as my former colleague Andy Ferguson pointed out last night) and it’s one that by no means presages surrender. As my former boss, Bill Kristol, put it yesterday:
In a way, Obama is now saying: We’re surging and fighting for the next 18 months; see you in July 2011. That’s about as good as we were going to get.
I guess what I’m saying is this: We hawks need to back off. At least for a little bit; at least until we see the effects of the Afghan surge and what President Obama does in the next 18 months. He’s earned this. We must give him this to prove our good faith.
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