President Obama


The president's Nobel acceptance speech was fascinating. Of course it was representative of the Obama pragmatism. But what struck me about this address was that it underlined how this war president, unlike recent other presidents, isn't a proud war president. This is a man who understands the duty of being commander-in-chief, while not wallowing in the swagger of the gig.

I should note here that my reluctant support for the Afghanistan strategy has softened during the past week (see Gates and Clinton on the Sunday shows) and I have no idea whether the plan will work, but I still understand how President Obama has been handed this conflict and his sense of realism and responsibility has guided him to make this decision.

In the address this morning, the president said he reserves the right to defend the nation. He's right. But I don't know if the Afghanistan strategy has been sufficiently justified as being vital to defending America. The "defending America" part has moved into Pakistan, as far as we know.

I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism –- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

All true, but I still don't understand how al-Qaeda's diminished numbers in Afghanistan, and its greater numbers in Pakistan justifies tens of thousands of additional soldiers in Afghanistan. Either the troop increase isn't exactly about al-Qaeda, or we're not being told that the increase is also about monitoring Pakistan. In other words, there's a disconnect.