"Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."Tonight's speech in front of gray shouldered West Point cadets was a stark, stuffy contrast to the speeches in which Obama has most moved me -- from a misty shoreline in Austin in February of 2007 to a wide-open stadium in Denver with confetti dripping from the skies -- but it wasn't that kind of speech. If Obama's speech was a horse, a judge would have called it "workmanlike." It got the job done, with little emotion or thrill, in a manner that was both tidy and flat. Despite all of this, sometimes in a field of distracting showboats, those horses actually win.
-Catch-22, Joseph Heller
No one trusts the Afghanistan government. And the war that President Obama has supported since its inception -- yes, this war -- has until now escaped the attention it deserves from not only our nation but from our past administration. We've broken more than one item at Pottery Barn this past decade and continue to be paying for the damage in lives and money, despite the fact that our nation is currently short on both. This isn't and never has been Pearl Harbor and alluding to it isn't going to make anyone feel any differently.
Which leads me to the question: Why now? Obama could let us continue to flounder around in Afghanistan, blame the terrorists' evasiveness on the caves and crossing into Pakistan, and we could spend years upon years doing more of the same. The terrible timing of committing more money and troops to a war that seems so futile makes me think -- despite my utter dislike of the plan -- that it might actually work.
I use the word "work" loosely, like many people use the term "paradigm," having no idea how to define it. I don't know what would "work" at this point in Afghanistan but I do know that while Obama has always supported the Afghanistan war, he's also a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. If he didn't think this was a battle worth fighting, and worth fighting now, then I'd like to believe -- and I think that I still have enough faith in him to do so -- that he's right.
After the speech, Texas blogger Steve Southwell, who writes Who's Playin', tweeted that his oldest son was motivated to write a letter to Obama. When I asked what his son's take on it was, Southwell replied that his son wants Obama to "'bring them home' and 'fix this war'." But despite these desires, Southwell continued to say that his son "says he wants to fly a bomber when he grows up, but not in a war."
Gently, I'd remind his son that you can't have bombers without wars. And to Americans frustrated with the situation in Afghanistan, but unhappy with the President's decision tonight, I'd remind them that we can't have peace until we've ended the wars we started.