I barely survived watching President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan. I almost had about three brain aneurysms, followed by an onset of mild depression and an extended attack of bitter cynicism centered somewhere in my spleen or gull bladder region. I didn’t even think I would have the stomach to blog. Over the past year, I’ve tried to raise just about every logical and emotional objection I could come up with for escalating the war in Afghanistan. Didn’t work. Luckily, I had pretty low expectations for myself to begin with. I’m now left with the not so satisfying knowledge that in a few years I’ll be able to say, along with plenty others, I told you so.
So it’s going to take me a few days before I have the mental capacity to prepare a new barrage of criticisms. I’ll just pick the low hanging fruit, something Obama said in his conclusion:
The road ahead will be long.There will be difficult days. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that serve the promise of a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America , our allies, and all who seek a better future.
Now, according to Obama, we actually know the length of that road–he says we’ll start getting off it in July 2011. So, the road is at least 18 months long, which isn’t really that long when we’re talking about nation building and fundamentally changing the societies of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here’s what’s funny about that 2011 date–every expert and military official I’ve ever talked to has said the war in Afghanistan will take much longer than 18 months, obviously. They toss around phrases like “generational commitment” and “at least four or five years” or “a decade or more.” These are war supporters, too, some involved in the planning of the war. Throwing 2011 out there as a date seems a bit disingenuous, like Obama is trying to sell the war by saying, ‘Hey, it’s really not going to take that long. Just 18 months!’ (That’s when we’ll start withdrawing troops, a process that will take–if Iraq is a guide–a good two or three years more.) But the president seems to be hedging his own July 2011 timeline by warning that “the road ahead will be long.” Trying to have it both ways–that we’ll actually be fighting a short, long, war.