So here will be my one and only open criticism of the president's speech.
For the record, I disagree with the 2011 time line that the president laid out. But I'm not convinced that it is a hard and fast date.
And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
The president doesn't say that all troops will be withdrawn in 2011, nor does he even say that all of the reinforcements will come home. He says they will start coming home. Keep in mind that the military moves slower coming out of a war zone than it does going in. While the new A-stan surge will take at least 6 months to ramp up, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes 9 months or longer to ramp down and bring them out of theater. If that process begins in summer 2011, that means the last of the reinforcements would be coming home in spring of 2012. And that just gets us back to the current troop level. The surge in Iraq wasn't open ended either. It was intended (if not publicly stated) that it would be a temporary troop increase, and Pres Bush warned Iraqis that the US would withdraw if it didn't take a more active role in its own security.
Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war.
This is disingenuous at best, and at worst shows a poor understanding of how the military works. Everyone in the military knew that Gen McCrystal wanted more troops before the White House admitted it, a point that GreyHawk made embarrassingly clear back in September. The president's three months of public dithering was proceeded by several weeks of refusing to let Gen McCrystal make his troop request.
Furthermore, the last three months of indecision now mean that the surge brigades will have to rush to get ready. Some Marine units will be leaving within the month. While this is certainly something that members of the military are aware can happen, the question is whether or not it needed to happen. Across America in the next few weeks, units that thought they had 6-9 months before their next deployment will be told they have only 1 or 2 months to get ready. This will be a leadership challenge, as well a a logistical one, but the worst impact will be on the part of the military that has the least say in the matter-the families. It would have gone a long way towards smoothing this over if President Obama would have addressed the families of those troops being sent, even if just one line or two.
In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our friends and neighbors are out of work and struggle to pay the bills, and too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.
This is the worst part of the entire speech, in my opinion. Pure partisan politics has no place in a speech about the military mission in A-stan, nor should the cadets at West Point have been used for partisan ideology. Pres Obama's unrestrained fiscal spending on a variety of pork barrel projects, capped by the mother of all pork bills, the 2009 stimuless act, makes him completely unbelievable when he complains about the cost of the War on Terror. In fact, it violates his own grasp of economics that more government spending is the way to pull the economy out of the tank. Where will the spending for this surge go? More bullets, more bombs, and more equipment. Wont that stimulate the economy? Take that line of thinking one step further and you could argue that every Reserve or National Guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan is a job saved or created. Either the job they leave behind can be filled by someone else for a year while they are deployed, or if they were already unemployed, now they have a paying job for a year. Unlike Recovery.gov, these jobs would be real and verified.
Now that my complaints have been aired, I want to stress my main point again. Conservatives need to rally behind the president in support of the mission. Clearly it will be high irony for conservatives to have to defend President Obama against the liberal left and especially the rabid anti-war movement. But the troops deserve nothing less than an enthusiastic and vocal support for the commander in chief.
Back in early 2007, at the height of the surge protests, a soldier in Iraq wrote this-
That's it, I am fed up with every member of the US Senate. The disgusting display of politics this past ten days is worse than I ever believed possible. No matter what side of the aisle, 100 men and women spent the last week dithering and pontificating about a military plan they have no intention or ability to change. All the while they have been providing the enemy with sound bites to show each other how close we are to turning tail and running from Iraq and Islamic terrorism. You would think I should be able to find 99 other soldiers here in Iraq from 49 other states to run for the Senate and boot everyone of these cowards out of office. I really can't express how disgusting this is.
That soldier was me, and my disgust wasn't just with Democrats or liberals. It was with every politician trying to use the war for political gain, and especially the former soldiers in Congress who should know better that once the decision to go to war is made, we need to get behind the president and support the mission.