I keep wondering what it must have been like to be a young student at West Point listening to their Commander in Chief’s platitudes and ignorance wash over them. West Point is where our nation’s future leaders in war receive an education in how to protect the nation by crushing our enemies, if Presidents and Congress will let them.
Unfortunately for them, this President seems to think that climate change is the nation’s biggest enemy and that a loose coalition of Islamic fanatics is the other. There was no talk of an increasingly aggressive China, a Russia that seized Crimea and would like a chunk of the Ukraine, or an Iran that got out from under some strong financial sanctions and will continue to build its own nuclear weapons no matter what Obama and other negotiators may want.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians have decided they would prefer a military dictator again as their president instead of a leader from the Muslim Brotherhood. Such choices are endemic to the Middle East. Real democracy is rare there. In Syria its dictator, Bashar al Assad, is still in power when, it could be argued, a few hours spent bombing his air force and other military facilities might have cost him his job and saved over 160,000 lives. So now Obama is reluctantly arming his opposition, some of whom could end up being as oppressive as al Assad.
The highlight of Obama’s speech was his announcement that the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan by 2016 except for a small force to train its military. Here’s what I had to say about Afghanistan in November 2009, a few months into Obama’s first term:
“If you look back, you discover that the former Soviet Union had 100,000 troops there and spent ten years in Afghanistan…one day in 1989 they just packed up and went home to Russia. Shortly thereafter the Berlin Wall fell, followed by the entire Soviet government in 1991.” And Afghanistan was deemed by Obama to be a “war of necessity.” Americans in 2009 would have been happy to depart, having been there for eight years with nothing to show for it.
Presidents who do not get the waging of war right end up killing a lot of American troops. Lyndon Johnson knew years earlier that he should have gotten out of Vietnam, but stayed on. And, yes, George W. Bush stayed on in Afghanistan and Iraq after achieving the initial goal of responding to 9/11 and then of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. War is not about nation-building.
The U.S. stayed on in Europe after WWII because the Soviet Union was the new threat there. We stayed on in Japan to ensure it learned how to govern itself without an all-powerful emperor and then because of a threat from North Korea and communist China. Internationally, we maintain a military presence by invitation in many nations because as the only global superpower we are also the only one that stands for freedom.
Obama has made it clear that he does not like our being a superpower. One need only look at the way he has reduced our military to pre-WWII levels.
How bad was the speech? When The New York Times published an editorial about it on May 28, it said “The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.” How incompetent does Obama have to be to elicit this kind of criticism from one of the greatest voices of liberalism in America?
At this point in his second term with two more years to go, Obama has been a spectacular failure domestically, diplomatically, and on the battlefield he chose. He has told the Taliban when we will leave and they will be back because we are talking about the Middle East. As for the rest of the Islamists, Obama abandoned the phrase “a war on terrorism” early on.
As former Ambassador John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Surrender is Not an Option” said in a recent commentary, “Typically, Mr. Obama made no mention of seeking ‘victory’ in the war against terrorism, a still-foreign concept to him, in a war whose very existence he denies.”
The only victory Obama has ever prized is the winning of elections. He was nowhere to be found the evening our ambassador and three security personnel were killed in Benghazi and the next day he flew to Los Angeles to do more fund raising. When their bodies returned, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about a video as the cause of an event that occurred on the anniversary of 9/11.
We have two more years of Obama as President. That cannot bode well for the future, either here or around the world.