The Corner

The Test

I didn’t like the speech for many of the reasons that have been outlined already in this space. Here’s the real test, though: Is Gen. McChrystal in Kabul regretting that Obama didn’t strike a more Churchillian tone, or is he very glad to have the troops and the time–at least 18 months before the start of any draw down–to try to turn around the war? Surely, it’s the latter. I went back and looked at Bush’s speech announcing the surge. It holds up very well. It’s prescient even. But at the time, as a piece of rhetoric, it didn’t matter too much because basically no one was listening to Bush any more. It wasn’t the words that saved the war, it was the incredibly courageous troops who went–finally, in sufficient numbers and with the proper strategic goal–into Baghdad neighborhoods and cleared out al Qaeda and the Shia militias. Those troops changed the dynamic of the war on the ground, and nothing else was as important. Yes, the Petraeus testimony made a difference, but it was only persuasive to the extent he had the actual progress to talk about and he was perhaps even more restrained than Obama tonight when he made the case for the war. Likewise, the Afghan war will be won or lost on the ground and Obama has given McChrystal the basic tools he needs. About that we should be very glad.

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