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  • Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

    Posted by Jonathan on December 5th, 2009 (All posts by )

    Obama’s lonely decision” may have been the right one — if that’s really what he decided, if he really did decide. That’s the problem. You don’t know with this guy. What he does is so often unrelated to what he says that it’s usually most productive to watch what he does and ignore what he says. Kagan makes the classic error of evaluating Obama based on words. I don’t think we’ll be able to evaluate Obama’s handling of Afghanistan until we see how he follows through on his speech. That will take some time. All we can say now is that he avoided the issue for months while our position in Afghanistan deteriorated, and then when backed against a political wall finally asserted a policy. Only time will tell if he means what he said. The optimistic interpretation — Kagan’s — is that political pressure not to screw up will keep him honest. I’m skeptical. Obama’s history is that of a man who believes he can talk his way out of anything and has succeeded so far. Why would he behave differently now? He might — people can change. But that’s not the way to bet.

    One of the problems with being a liar is that nobody believes you when you tell the truth. I hope that Obama really does show backbone in Afghanistan and commits to victory, but he’ll have to act like it (not merely talk like it) before reasonable people will believe him.

     

    9 Responses to “Watch What He Does, Not What He Says”

    1. dearieme Says:

      How can he “commit to victory” when nobody knows what victory would look like?

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Maybe he can’t. He probably doesn’t share my premise that the West is in a long war with radical Islam in which victory means the marginalization of radical Islam. In this frame Afghanistan is a theater of battle rather than a war unto itself, and we should expect to maintain an active presence there for many years to come.

      He could at least do what he isn’t doing now, namely make decisions faster and show resolve. Instead he’s triangulating: we’re sending more troops but we’re going to start withdrawing them next Wednesday. But who knows, maybe we’ll succeed in marginalizing radical Islam by then.

    3. david foster Says:

      Mark Steyn on Obama’s speech.

    4. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Gates is the one to watch. He has given an interview comparing Obama’s decision to Bush’s surge, a comparison Obama would never make, and it is reassuring.

      “That transition has to occur, I think we can all agree on, and a surge is a surge so it’s a reasonable time frame to achieve the effects that we want to achieve,” he says.

      He also said, although I cannot find a link to those words, that the Iraq surge lasted 14 months before the troop levels began to decline. This is a similar timeline. If Obama begins to back away from the commitment, as I expect him to, Gates may start talking about leaving.

      Personally, given the rules of engagement they have, I am in favor of just pulling out.

    5. jack turner Says:

      It seems to work like this:
      when Obama gets a request for additional troops, if he doesn’t respond ASAP, he is “diterhing.” If after a time he announces a strategy and begins to not just send but rush troops, then he is not to be trusted.
      Fact is, Taliban is not Al Qaeda–and no I don’t like them either–and Pakistan is as much of a problem now as is Afghanistan.

      Obama wants to get out of Afghanistan. The American people want us out of Afghanistan (note how the GOP carps about our deficit for domestic needs but never for military needs), and we either do a Tough Love and force Afghanistan to stand on their own or we stay there (of course: not you and not me) and Enable the Afghanistan govt and people.

      Obama is continuing the Bush war but he has now made it is own. He may decide to get us out after a time, but he seems to want to satisfy two ends: buying time to get Afghanistan ready (as happens in Iraq) do do the job for their own country
      and also to get out of that trap.

      Am I the only one reading this fine blog who feels that this is comendable and am looking to see if his plan works? Or is much easier to sit back, sneer, and put down any and all attempts than are made by a president and party that won big on the national level??

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Bullshit. Obama made a big show of reexamining our failed Afghan policy that had been initiated by the failed Bush administration etc etc. As part of this reexamination Obama commissioned Gen. McChrystal’s review in the Spring. McChrystal delivered his report in August. Obama sat on it for months while his surrogates attacked McChrystal in the press and floated trial balloons. Meanwhile no one had a clue what Obama planned, and his inaction suggested that he was going to reverse our policy. Dithering is the nicest way to characterize his behavior.

      You are right that Obama wants to get out of Afghanistan, but you are wrong about what the American people want. Of course no one wants us to be there, but reasonable people recognize that there is no good alternative for the time being. If voters wanted to get out now Obama would be getting us out now. It is precisely because Americans don’t want that that Obama is reinforcing our military presence in Afghanistan. The question is whether he will follow through.

      BTW, it’s not the “Bush war.” It’s the American war. Americans, including the Congressional Democratic leadership, overwhelmingly supported our invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Your memory is conveniently short on this point.

      Am I the only one reading this fine blog who feels that this is comendable and am looking to see if his plan works? Or is much easier to sit back, sneer, and put down any and all attempts than are made by a president and party that won big on the national level??

      Don’t be an ass. I said in the last sentence of my post that I hope that Obama will show resolve and do the right thing. But you won’t acknowledge that I wrote that, because doing so wouldn’t serve your rhetorical purpose of casting yourself as reasonable and me as unreasonable by comparison.

    7. Mike K Says:

      What I fear is the Johnson syndrome in which he said he wouldn’t be the first American president to lose a war but then did everything he could to keep from winning, including telling the North Vietnamese that we did not plan to win.

    8. pst314 Says:

      How can he “commit to victory” when he is so unwilling to speak of victory? (Except when talking about defeating his domestic enemies, anyone to the right of Hubert Humphrey?)

    9. tyouth Says:

      “when Obama gets a request for additional troops, if he doesn’t respond ASAP, he is “diterhing.” If after a time he announces a strategy and begins to not just send but rush troops, then he is not to be trusted.”

      ASAP is usually the way to go in matters of life and death. Dithering and being untrustworthy aren’t mutually exclusive.