The President’s speech tonight has been months in the making, and really dates back to his campaign for President. I have heard a lot about what we want to do — send more troops, shore up a provincial and corrupt government, restore infrastructure, etc. What I haven’t heard from President Obama — during the campaign or his Presidency — is what our goal is, our end game. I want Osama Bin Laden captured and killed. If that is our goal, one that has eluded us for 8 years while we diverted our attention and fought the Bush/Cheney budget-busting war for cheap gas in Iraq, then why is it that we have failed in reaching our objective? If more troops are the answer, why just 30,000? Why not 40,000? 60,000? 100,000? If we put more troops in Afghanistan, how will we deal with the flip side of the coin, and some might say the bigger problem, of a Pakistani government that reportedly has harbored Al Queda with a wink and a nod, is wary of a U.S. military presence and has made a half-hearted effort to take on the terrorists? To help get the American people behind this effort, I think we need to hear:
1) What is the moral justification for asking a person to die in support of this escalation? In other words, what is it, exactly, that we are asking our soldiers to sacrifice their lives for?
2) What are the realistic plans, and how will we credibly deal with the reality of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan? We have talked nobly about new governments, restored infrastructure, nation building in other words, in a region of the world that has resisted such efforts throughout the course of history. On a practical level, how can we be sure that the money meant for things like schools or sewers isn’t falling into the hands of corrupt, whimsical tribal leaders who will gladly take our millions, put it in their pocket, and welcome the Taliban through the back door, taking their money and military support? How can we trust an Afghanistan government that our own government has labeled corrupt?
3) How are we going to pay for this? The Iraq war was a key force in the economic perfect storm that sent us spiraling into a depression. Already deeper in the hold financially, is it realistic to say that we’re going to pay for this through funds already allocated? How can we believe that can happen when all other conflicts have been financed off the balance sheet?
President Obama said a lot of things during his campaign that are not consistent with what he has done so far as President. This is a President who has moved millions with his eloquent words, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. This is one of those times.