Obama gave his speech, appropriately in light of its content, at West Point, the United States’ Army military academy. The band, naturally, played marching tunes. Articulating what are now somewhat shop-worn words, the President said he’d requested another 30,000 troops, and that they’d start coming back in 2011, after they’d provided some breathing room for our allies, the Karzai government, which he claimed had legitimately won a recent election (albeit he said, one marred by voting fraud). And on went the tactical talk and the strategic planning, all of which echoed other phrases we’ve heard before: We’ll stand down when they stand up. Hearts and minds. Buying into lying McChrystal’s tainted COIN spiel, we heard how military force would turn the Taliban on its heels, and in a mere 18 months our heroes would make the space to commence building a nice civil society of cops and courts, commerce and safety. They can probably have a McDonalds, too, with special Pat Tillman plastic statuary looking like Ronnie McDonald.
Coming from Obama’s gilded mouth this still sounded tinny, if not so absurd as Bush’s fumblings with his native lingo. Still the ideas were threadworn, and promises distinctly feeble, and the tone-deafness so deja vu. Due attention was made to how we ended in this fix with an oblique critique of Bush’s Iraq adventure, and how much it was costing the domestic side of things and that, reality being what it is, how we couldn’t frankly afford much of it. Nevertheless Obama declined to bite any real bullets and say he was re-instituting the draft and raising taxes to pay for this further war. As one writer responding to a NY Times blog suggested, if he were really an astute chess player he would have put the ball in Congresses’ court, requested a declaration of war, taxes to pay for it, and a draft to man it. This would have shifted the political terms considerably. But Obama, however unconvincing his silver words seem when applied to their policies, is in the pocket of business-as-usual American militarism. And what we got was boiler-plate American exceptionalism – “we’re not here to take your resources or occupy you, and America has been the planetary good guy for 6 decades” said the black-face minstrel-show orator, just like the white guy would have. 700 hundred military bases around the globe and snake oil. The same old hoofin’ and tap dance America always does. We’re here ’cause it’s good for you!
Same old same old packaged in slightly less offensive words, and trying to cover for the fundamental political and economic weakness behind our weakened military. Talk tough, act tough, and hope nobody calls you on it. I don’t think this speech will get him American public support, or duly impress the Taliban. And in whatever lair, those of Al Qaeda and others of similar persuasion are probably pleased, seeing the great giant of America tied down, bleeding, ruptured within, unable to speak to itself or act coherently internationally.