Bottom line up front: Stanley McChrystal gets 30,000 more U.S. troops — with the prospect of at least a few thousand more from allies — and a couple of campaign seasons to make a difference. That is a very good thing, and well worth suffering through the blame-it-on-Bush introduction, the subsequent nuclear-free-one-worldism and such. Conservatives who expect more from Barack Obama will forever be disappointed.
Nor should conservatives get overly excited about the 18-month timeline, at least yet. Beginning to reduce troops in the summer of 2011 is within the bounds of good strategic sense, assuming we make good use of the time until then. Nor is it really the case that Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar will take great succor from the timeline; they already think they’ll outlast us. It will hurt them to lose what they see as the gains they’ve scored, not just this year but over the past three years, at great effort.
There were two other notably good bits. One, the war on Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be over. The rhetoric about his rule as being consistent with Afghan law is a good start to the needed rehabilitation process. Winning the war will be the best anti-corruption measure. Second, the president’s concluding recognition of the U.S. role in the world sounded a lot like good old American exceptionalism. Welcome to the American tradition, Mr. President.
Finally, a bit of deliciously petty partisanship: lots of long faces at MSNBC. Olberman taking refuge in Cheney-bashing; Matthews grumpy at having his Bill-Moyers-vintage-Vietnam-LBJ analogies taken away; Rachel Maddow trying to take chirpy consolation in Obama’s pragmatism; a progressive circular firing squad. A perverse but still real measure of success.
– Thomas Donnelly is resident fellow in foreign- and defense-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.