by Charles Krauthammer at Townhall.com
We shall fight in the air, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, we shall fight in the hills — for 18 months. Then we start packing for home.
We shall never surrender — unless the war gets too expensive, in which case, we shall quote Eisenhower on “the need to maintain balance in and among national programs” and then insist that “we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.”
The quotes are from President Obama’s West Point speech announcing the Afghanistan troop surge. What a strange speech it was — a call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive.
Which made his last-minute assertion of “resolve unwavering” so hollow. It was meant to be stirring. It fell flat. In August, he called Afghanistan “a war of necessity.” On Tuesday night, he defined “what’s at stake” as “the common security of the world.” The world, no less. Yet, we begin leaving in July 2011?
Does he think that such ambivalence is not heard by the Taliban, by Afghan peasants deciding which side to choose, by Pakistani generals hedging their bets, by NATO allies already with one foot out of Afghanistan?
Nonetheless, most supporters of the Afghanistan War were satisfied. They got the policy, the liberals got the speech. The hawks got three-quarters of what Gen. Stanley McChrystal wanted — 30,000 additional U.S. troops — and the doves got a few soothing words. Big deal, say the hawks.
But it is a big deal. Words matter because will matters.