There are many on the Right who will criticize the president’s speech tonight — particularly his statement of a specific date for a U.S. drawdown to begin. However, it is worth reflecting on what could have been in the speech that was not — off ramps, assessments of progress before the bulk of the additional troops were deployed — all opportunities for a hesitant president of a war-weary party to reverse course and rethink his Afghanistan strategy once again.
There is none of that in tonight’s speech. President Obama has clearly rejected the advice of Vice President Biden and many of his political advisers who wanted to hedge our bets in Afghanistan. By sending 21,000 troops earlier this year and announcing plans to send 30,000 more this evening, this president has made it clear that he intends to give his commanders a chance to win in Afghanistan and those of us on the right should support him in that endeavor.
There will be time to criticize various inflection points and question details, but the fact of the matter is that Barack Obama has accepted the mantle of wartime president and even overcome his aversion to American exceptionalism to employ some rhetoric that is worthy of George W. Bush. General McChrystal will get most of the troops he requested and the time required to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that offers the best chance of success.
Now the president must speak regularly and frankly to the American people about the difficult road ahead, something he has been unwilling to do thus far. If he does that, fewer conservatives will question his commitment to a war that we all agree needs to be won.
— Jamie M. Fly is executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative.