Well, perhaps not surprisingly, I thought it was a good speech. It was the sort of speech that the nation has needed for eight years, clearly explaining why we need to stay in Afghanistan and the thought process behind his particular course of action.
It didn’t have the level of detail I would have liked (what are the metrics by which we’ll determine our success or failure) but that might have been a bit wonky for this speech. I would expect that sort of detail to come shortly.
I’m also more of an idealist that the President and so don’t automatically regard nation building as a dirty word but he explained why he isn’t going that route and it seems reasonable.
Also, I know everyone is going to be talking about the timeline to withdrawal but as I understood his remarks he only committed to beginning a withdrawal of forces. There was no force levels or timeline for when the last U.S. troops would depart Afghanistan so he allowed himself a great deal of flexibility (which could be good or bad depending on how things shake out).
He didn’t have an easy decision to make and he was very generous to the Karzai government but this was clearly a good first step.
UPDATE: As I think about this, did it occur to anyone else that even though he was talking about a troop escalation to Afghanistan, most of the problems he mentioned were in Pakistan (couched cleverly in the speech repeatedly as the border region). Perhaps Afghanistan is seen as strategically important only so far as it allows a large military force close to Pakistan to
- prevent the Taliban there from being able to hide in Afghanistan
- be on standby in case Pakistan goes belly up
J doesn’t buy the Pakistan nuke threat and it does seem a bit of a stretch to me but that really doesn’t matter. If the President (and the rest of the national security structure) believes it, it is so and they’ll act accordingly.