The New York Post asked me to watch the president’s speech last night and write a deadline column for today’s paper:
So now we know: After 10 years, billions of dollars and thousands of American casualties, victory in Afghanistan come 2014 will consist of having killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The rest is process, as we wind down our foreign wars and get on with the really important work — domestic infrastructure repair and clean energy.
That, at least, is what President Obama seemed to say last night in his 16-minute address to the nation — a campaign speech designed to paint him more as dispassionate peacemaker than as commander in chief…
What we saw last night was a canny political speech. Obama, who came to prominence as the anti-war candidate, aimed to placate his liberal base and appeal to the growing number of Republicans who want to see us out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Still, our president always likes to have it both ways. At the start of his speech, he noted that “our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan” just after 9/11. “Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.”
(Translation: Not. My. Fault.)
Also, is it just me or was there something strangely disassociative about the venue — Obama alone, in front of a podium, just him and the cameras and the teleprompter, wagging his finger at his wonderful American subjects out there in the dark? It had to be the least-inspiring “victory” speech of all time.
Besides, we have better things to do than to, you know, “win.”
The president concluded with stirring defense of nation-building — not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but here at home, with such phrases as “living within our means, “unleashing innovation,” and “new and clean sources of energy.”
“Let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars and reclaim the American Dream.” Just after 9/11, is that really what we were fighting for?
Whatever happened to victory?
I think Mark Steyn has already answered that question.