We Need to Stop Pretending That Obama Hasn't Been Consistent on Afghanistan:
Let's not kid ourselves here:
"This is a war that we have to win. I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan...We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region." - Then-candidate Barack Obama in his last big speech about Afghanistan, July 15, 2008.
"I think I was right in terms of the need to put more troops into Afghanistan. I said that a year and a half ago. John McCain disagreed. Recently he now wants to put more troops in, and I think that's a good thing, because I think anybody who talks to folks in Afghanistan will concur that we need more support." - Obama to Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News, July 24, 2008.
"Those 30,000 troops could have also been in Afghanistan during this time, and we might have done a much better job of going after al-Qaeda and the Taliban and stabilizing the situation there than we are right now. And that is part of the calculation that has to be made when we're having this broader debate about how to keep America safe." - from the same interview.
"I will finally have a comprehensive strategy to finish the job in Afghanistan, with more troops..." - Obama at a campaign news conference in Ohio, September 9, 2008.
"We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate. We need more troops there. We need more resources there... I think we need more troops. I've been saying that for over a year now. And I think that we have to do it as quickly as possible because it's been acknowledged by the commanders on the ground the situation is getting worse, not better." - Obama at the September 26, 2009 debate with John McCain.
How many more quotes do you need on this? 'Cause there's probably a couple of hundred or so more, every single one of them with Barack Obama calling for an escalation in the number of troops in Afghanistan. Hell, it was an easy applause line.
His acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination? "When John McCain said we could just 'muddle through' in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11."
An early campaign speech from September 12, 2007? "When we end this war in Iraq, we can finally finish the fight in Afghanistan. That is why I propose stepping up our commitment there, with at least two additional combat brigades and a comprehensive program of aid and support to help Afghans help themselves."
So let's be grown-ups here as we get ready for President Obama to make his new, big Afghanistan speech and say that the man didn't lie to us. He told us for the last two years that he was gonna send more troops. In fact, about the only thing he's guilty for during this long period of contemplation and meetings is getting our hopes up that he might be changing his mind. Out here in Left Blogsylvania, we desperately read things like his delay in announcing a strategy and his trip to Dover Air Base as the signs of transformation. Nope. Turns out that he was just figuring out how much to up the number from two brigades.
Americans are also finally getting to the point of accepting that Afghanistan is not the "good war" we had hoped it was. It's just, now that there's at least some movement on Iraq withdrawal, we're paying attention, and, oh, wow, hell, there's actually people dying and we're not really sure why. For so very long, many on the left were willing to use Afghanistan as a way of demonstrating how tough they could be while condemning Iraq.
But we who supported Obama but opposed the war knew, or should have known, what we were getting by voting for him. The thing is that there were supposed to be all these mitigating factors, like a kind of bargaining session. Like we had a mental negotiation with his campaign platform: "Okay, you can escalate the number troops in Afghanistan if you close Gitmo, really end the Iraq war, get health care reform with a real public plan, and, oh, fuck, how about ending DOMA and DADT?" If Obama had held up his end of the deal, there's a good chance a great many more Americans would be supporting this escalation, as they had supported the Afghanistan war to this point. It's an issue of trust, yes, but not in the pathetically misinformed, hysterical way of the teabaggers, who never trusted him to begin with.
Sure, times have changed since the pre-economic collapse a couple of years ago, and more than ever, the wars are luxuries we can't afford. And it doesn't help that so much of what Obama himself said about Iraq seems prescient when talking about Afghanistan. In that July 15, 2008 speech, he said of Iraq, "At some point, a judgment must be made. Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don’t have unlimited resources to try to make it one. We are not going to kill every al-Qaeda sympathizer, eliminate every trace of Iranian influence, or stand up a flawless democracy before we leave." Damn, that guy was smart.
But this isn't about Obama or even the Afghanistan war. It's about us. As we see Obama capitulate, hedge, or hesitate on all the liberal things he promised, it's just goddamned depressing to see him so readily follow through on the hawkish promises. And it also forces us to realize that all that protesting of the Iraq war was far, far too narrow in scope.
Tonight: Live whiskey-blogging the speech.