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Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

President Obama Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

Posted by AB on December 10, 2009

Earlier today, in Oslo, Norway, President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize.  Despite being the leader of a nation involved in two wars, he was awarded the honor less than a year into his presidency.  And to make things even more uncomfortable, the President recently ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. 

It seemed to be an untenable position for a man to receive an award for peace while he, at the same time, commands a military at war on two fronts.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure that there was anything that could be said to reconcile that paradox, but it seems that he has pulled it off, brilliantly.  He spoke about the unfortunate reality that is the necessity of war.  He expressed that there are evils in this world, and that the purveyors of these evils cannot be persuaded without military intervention. 

Amazingly, the assessments of the speech–from the right and left–have been positive.  It is a rare occasion for President Obama to receive praise from the right side of the political spectrum, and recently from the left, but some are saying that this could have been his best speech ever.  I don’t know if I agree with that opinion, but today’s speech might have been the most real, honest and grown-up speech given by an American president in years.

And with that speech, along with other bits of evidence in his first year in office, I have come to realize what Barack Obama really is–a grown-up.  He is a father-figure in a land of juvenile delinquents, and it is comforting to me.  But then again, maybe I’m just a kid, searching for the good in this world.

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They’ll wait us out? Good

Posted by AB on December 7, 2009

As soon as President Obama announced his plan for Afghanistan, last week, his opponents from the right began to attack.  Proving, once again, that the President’s opponents and critics cannot be satisfied or accepting of any of his policies, they found a predictably sour note in the plan.  Senator John McCain went on NBC just minutes after the speech to declare his concern with a timetable to begin withdrawal in Afghanistan and, in the subsequent days, many others have followed suit.

Opponents of a withdrawal timetable will say that we shouldn’t tell the enemy when we will leave.  Nevermind that this July 2011 date is tentative and dependent on the realities on the ground, they believe that the enemy, which is Al Qaeda and some of the Taliban, will just sit back and wait until we withdraw.  Well, I hope that they are right.  The absolute best thing that can happen for us and the world in Afghanistan is for the entities that are destabilizing that country to retreat for the next 18 months.  That gives the United States and its allies 18 months to train the Afghan military and police.  Eighteen months to stabilize one of the most corrupt governments in the world.  Eighteen months to help stabilize Pakistan, a country that does have nuclear weapons.  Eighteen months, unchallenged.  That would be sweet.

When I hear that argument, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.  On the one hand, it is a ridiculous argument, but on the other hand, some of those who are making that argument are our elected leaders.  The notion that we should never plan for an exit because our opponents will wait for hundreds or thousands of years is one of the most insane arguments that I could imagine.  Are they saying that we could be there for hundreds of years?  Are they saying that the President should have some super-secret withdrawal plan, so that the enemy and the American people will be surprised when we leave?  This criticism of a withdrawal plan shows a fundamental lapse of thought from a large segment of people.  It doesn’t make me laugh or cry, but it is a sad.

Republicans, conservatives, and other opponents of a withdrawal date can use all of nonsensical arguments that they can think-up, but each time that they say that our enemies will wait until we leave, someone must point out that it would be a good thing.  It would be a dream scenario for our military to operate, unfettered, for the next 18 months.  We need that time to strengthen Afghanistan’s military, police and government, so that when we do leave, Afghanistan can support and protect Afghanistan.  

We cannot stay there forever.  In July of 2011, we will have been there for nearly 10 years.  For most Americans, that is long enough.  So, they’ll wait us out?  Good.

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Obama’s Afghan Decision

Posted by AB on December 2, 2009

Last night, addressing the nation before the US Military Academy at West Point, President Obama announced his plan for moving forward in Afghanistan.  He announced that he would send 30, 000 more troops into Afghanistan through the next six months, part of a plan to begin removing American military from that country within 18 months.  The new strategy will focus on defeating Al Qaeda, training Afghan police and military, correcting government corruption, and support for the stability of Pakistan.

To the dismay of much of the media, the speech was not filled with “bumper-sticker” quotes, but with reason and responsibility.  His goal was to explain the strategy and reasons for that strategy to, not only American civilians and military members, but also to the people of Afghanistan and the world.  Something that I feel was especially significant and powerful was when the President looked straight into the camera, addressing Afghans, explaining the purpose of the US military presence in their country.  He told them, explicitly, that the United States had no desire to occupy Afghanistan.  That part of the speech might be overlooked and, although it may seem like an insignificant part of the speech, this subtle overture is important to gain the trust of the Afghan people.

This decision by President Obama has been, and will continue to be panned by the media, bloggers, and politicians.  This is one of those decisions that will please very few, right or left, but that could be a good sign, actually.  When no one in this divisive political atmosphere is championing the President’s decision, then he must be doing something right.  He, his administration, and the military seem to be on the same page on this decision, however, which is most important.  Popular support for all wars continue to wane in this country, and for good reason, but the populous reacts emotionally, while our nations leaders must rule with reason. 

Conservatives and Republicans, who are against every decision the President makes, are complaining that there are too few troops, and that the 18-month timeline for withdrawal is somehow equivalent to surrender.  Of course, all of this is nonsense.  I know that they must find something to disagree with, maybe they should remember the advice that they have repeated, again and again, for the past couple of months–listen to the generals.  Okay, let’s see what Gen. Stanley McChrystal has to say:  (from UPI)

“The clarity, capability, and committment outlined in President Obama’s address are critical steps toward eliminating an insurgency in Afghanistan and terrorist safe havens that threatened regional and global security….I believe our renewed coalition campaign is fortified by the path President Obama has put forward.”   

Democrats, liberals, and progressives–my side of political thinking–are not happy about the decision, either.  Many of them feel that it is time for us to immediately withdraw from Afghanistan.  Although President Obama, during last years election campaign, clearly stated he would place more focus of the war in Afghanistan, people on the left are disappointed or angry about this “surge” of troops.  They try to insult Obama by saying that he is acting just like George W. Bush.  That, too, is nonsense.  I only wish that President Bush would have placed the proper focus on Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, he forgot about Afghanistan.  He invaded Iraq.  He didn’t take care of business, so President Obama must.

There are no silver bullets for success in Afghanistan.  There seem to be no good options, but President Obama has properly deliberated over the facts and advice, and he has now announced the strategy that he believes is most likely to lead to success.  I don’t know if he is right or wrong but, as Americans, we should all hope that he is right.  It is time for Americans to unite.  “United we stand, divided we fall.”

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The President’s Address to Congress

Posted by AB on February 26, 2009

OBAMA/FEB24

Tuesday, President Obama addressed a joint session of congress for the first time.  It was not considered a State of the Union Address; his first official SOTU will not happen until next year.  Nevertheless, it was an important speech. 

The introduction of our new President into the hall really amazed me, visually.  I was struck by the vitality of the new face our nation.  He was brimming with the confidence that is critical for America at this uncertain time.  We are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but those conflicts do not seem to be of most concern to the majority of citizens.  For those who do not have loved ones in the military, and even some that do, the economy is in the forefront.  Some people are worried that they will not have a job next week.  Others are worried that they will have no home in a month, and some are even worried about how they will feed their children tomorrow.  We are looking for someone to lead us out of this desert and, in my opinion, President Obama is that leader.     

I did vote for Barack Obama.  I am a liberal.  I am a Democrat.  But I do not know the answers to the tough questions that we face, and do not think that anyone really has the silver bullet that will return us to a vibrant economy.  Democrats and the President will not always be right about every issue, but the ideas from the left are the most promising.  The ideas from the political right are few, while Republicans attempt to regain relevance against a popular Democratic President.  Thus far, the response of the Republican party is to morph from opposition party to obstructionist party. 

President Obama promptly disarmed his opponents with another electrifying speech that was hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike.  He did an excellent job of inspiring confidence and hope before congress and the American people.  I anticipated the speech with cautious optimism, for the global economy relies, in large part, upon the confidence of consumers.  I was impressed, but Tuesday night was a nice first step, and we have a long way to go.  These problems did not occur overnight, and they will not be resolved overnight, but we will soon be on the correct path to prosperity.

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