Proving once again that he is a very compelling speaker, President Obama had something for everybody last night in laying out his case for sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. In a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Obama gave conservatives what they wanted by sending in more troops, eased the worries of independents and moderates by explaining what he was doing and why he took the length of time he did to make the decision, and threw liberals a bone (or at least tried to, anyway) by setting a goal of starting a withdrawl by July 2011.
President Obama is correct in putting in some kind of exit strategy, even a general one, so we have an idea of how to finish this thing. But I, like a lot of people, am wary of Hamid Karzai and his ability to hold Afghanistan’s notorious factions together solidly enough to have a stable central government. The controversy over his re-election earlier this year didn’t assuage those concerns any. Yes, Karzai is much better than the alternatives (The Taliban or total anarchy), but will only one year with all of the additional troops there be enough? Is Karzai capable of keeping Afghanistan together at all long-term?
Obama would be well-advised to be flexible with that withdrawl date. If Karzai’s government is not capable of defending itself at that point, we need to stay until they are. The last thing the United States (and Obama) need, after all of the billions of dollars spent on this war and the questions about Obama’s leadership, is a repeat of the end of the Vietnam War. The last thing we need is the Taliban and Al Qaeda simply waiting us out under the guise of a “truce,” much like the Viet Cong did (knowing we didn’t have the stomach to fight a guerilla war indefinitely), then overrunning Karzai’s government as soon as the last troop planes take off.
Despite what the Republicans will no doubt be crowing, tonight’s results are not a referendum on President Obama. But they do provide an important lesson that Obama and his advisers would be well advised to heed.
It’s time for Obama to shut up, lead and actually get things done.
The story of tonight was simple – conservatives were galvanized, out of disgust with Obama’s policies and sensing vulnerability. Liberals were disenchanted by Obama’s failure to back up his campaign talk and stayed home. And independents see an economy that is still broken and broke heavily for challengers over incumbents. If Obama and the Dems want to do well in next year’s Congressional midterms (when 37 other governorships will also be up for grabs), they better lay off the glitzy speeches and actually get things done.
Create jobs. Pass real healthcare reform. Just get things done that are actually going to improve things for people outside of Washington. Things that you pledged to do as a candidate. Actually do those things, and your base will be energized again, independents will appreciate you accomplishing something and the rest will take care of itself.
That’s it. Enough talking. Time to show some guts, lead and git r done. The incumbents (or their parties) weren’t perceived to have gotten it done and paid the price. Obama better get things done or he’ll be joining them in the unemployment line.