Obama's big risk

Speaking at West Point in New York tonight, President Obama explained to the American public what is  going  on in Afghanistan, and he's expanding the war effort, eight years after the U.S. first invaded that nation.

Coming fresh off new criticism from Vice President Dick Cheney (who called the President "weak" in an interview published today) and others that  he's "dithered", the President said this near the beginning of his 35 minute speech:

Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war. Instead, the review has allowed me ask the hard questions, and to explore all of the different options along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and with our key partners. Given the stakes involved, I owed the American people – and our troops – no less.

For those ( basically half the public, according to polls) who think the action in Afghanistan is not critical to American national security,  the President strongly disagrees:

So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Critics are already dubbing this conflict Obama's Vietnam.  The President responded in his speech.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now – and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance – would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Overall,  Congressional Republicans seem to be more in favor than Democrats in this escalation overseas.  However, most seem critical of the fact that in the same speech that announces a surge in troops, the President also announced when he intends to being the troops home. To that he said,

there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort – one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

Obama defined victory as reversing the Taliban's momentum, which has always been the source of mystery. 

Well, that's it.  We'll write a new post on the opinions of top lawmakers and thinkers.

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