The big news today is obviously the Obama administration’s
decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The news has been
greeted soberly, as Taegen Goddard notes
on his Political Wire blog:
‘Unlike most of President Obama’s speeches, it’s hard to
feel positive after this one. He did not make the case for how a quick surge of
additional troops, followed by their withdrawal starting just 18 months later,
is going to dramatically change the outcome of this war.
‘The setting, in an auditorium of cadets at West Point,
didn’t work. Weak applause from the audience — and the brief shot of a
sleeping cadet — didn’t set the appropriate tone. A somber speech like this
one needed to be done from the Oval Office.
‘Unfortunately, the speech didn’t do much to change public opinion on an
increasingly unpopular war. It’s hard not to think this war will continue for
many years to come.’
Although I think it’s perhaps a little early to be calling
public opinion on this, the sombre mood of the speech reflects the tortuous decision
making process behind this. And Goddard is absolutely right — it isn’t obvious how Obama is in a position
to be putting a feasible timetable on withdrawal. It’s clearly been done to
provide political cover for a potentially unpopular decision.
But setting a deadline could come back to bite Obama, even
if the consequences aren’t felt until after the mid-terms.