Flickr photo by Truthout.org
Obama's speech at West Point Academy made a case for escalating the war in Afghanistan by deploying 30,000 more troops and laid out justifications for escalation that would deflect criticism.
The speech largely avoided the sloganeering and Manichaean flourishes that Americans became used to hearing from President George W. Bush, but it also setup a key paradox ---
Isn't this all being said to convince Americans that their conflicts and reservations with this war need to be sidelined? Aren't Americans being asked to acquiesce to this president and let him take the lead without citizens creating noise in opposition to his plan for continuing a war Bush started?
Rachel Maddow noted afterward that this was a pretty pragmatic speech and Howard Fineman said during Countdown that there was a "grim realism" to this speech.
Both were hinting that Obama was focused on what was happening in Afghanistan, wanted to focus on the task at hand, and tamp down the criticism from people who are paying close attention to the wars in the Middle East.
A conversation between Ron Suskind and Rachel Maddow revealed on Tuesday night that Obama considered options ranging from a complete drawdown to escalating the war with 30,000 troops. It's clear he had many reservations and yet military and other interests won this escalation decision.
Portions of Obama's speech are similar to portions of speeches President George W. Bush delivered. MichaelMoore.com has posted a comparison:
The interests of American hegemony beat out interests of humanity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and here at home.
Note what he used to justify the deployment of more troops. Obama cited the Iraq War:
I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.
Seemingly, Obama invoked the Iraq War because it is largely regarded as Bush's War. And, reminding Americans that Bush created that war and that war has negatively impacted this nation's ability to address the issue of the war in Afghanistan would make it possible to deflect criticism.
But then, he invoked the soldiers and their families:
"Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you - a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow...