My take on Obama's speech at West Point isn't very different from what the press is reporting today. Blame Bush, generalities, blame Bush, campaign mode. What took around forty minutes could have wrapped up in ten.
Several things caught Hub's and my attention. The obviousness of the secret service. One would think they might be a little less apparent at the U.S. Military Academy. Forget about party crashers.
The number of cadets dozing off during the speech. We begged the cameramen to quit panning the audience fearing the cadets would get in trouble. But then officers present were also having trouble keeping their eyes open. As did Hillary. We were so riveted, we both noticed the gray showing in the brushed back locks over her ears.
What really lacked was fire. There was none. There was a sense of detachment in his delivery and certainly a lack of specifics. Of course it's hard to be specific when there is little of substance.
So where are we? General McCrystal gets far fewer than the number of troops he deemed necessary. The likelihood of NATO countries ponying up the shortfall is slim to none. The talk of training the Afghans to stand on their own sounds vaguely familiar. After disbanding the Iraqi army we tried the same there and they still aren't up to snuff. We're starting with far less in Afghanistan.
So. We're supposed to crush the Taliban, dismantle al Qaeda, cure Karzai's corruption, rebuild the Afghan army plus the country and withdraw all in 18 months! This is the stuff of Obama campaign rhetoric. While still a campaign, it is of a different sort. This is the real world. The world of war.
The Republicans don't like the time line. The Democrats don't like war period. Neither do our allies who we'll be looking to for support. There is no money. What if the Chinese decide they don't want to lend us any more? There is health care, talk of another stimulus, jobs and, of course, war. It may be a war within if this keeps up!
I leave the most important observation until the end. How others in the world viewed the speech. From Spiegel Online's Gabor Steingart. He in essence has said, none to kindly, the Obama magic no longer works.
Remember how people around the world gathered to see him in tremendous throngs during his campaign? They were curious as to who this bright rising star from America was. No more. They've figured it out. The problem is the longer it takes for us to follow on, the worse off we'll be.