Wednesday evening President Barack Obama appeared before the American people from the East Room of the White House to announce his plan to begin withdrawing United States armed forces from Afghanistan. His remarks began shortly after 8pm EST and were approximately 15 minutes in length.
The President began by invoking the memory of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and offering a brief recapitulation of the war in Afghanistan and the move into Iraq. He continued by stating that the al Qaeda leaders had moved into Pakistan and that the terrorist forces had regrouped and began to move on the offensive.
When Barack Obama was running for President, one of the primary stances of his campaign was that if he took office, he would seek to withdrawal our forces from the Middle East. President Bush faced fierce criticism for refusing to reduce the number of US troops involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So Barack Obama committed to voters to bring the troops home. Instead, early on in his tenure as President he sent a surge of 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. He did not pull these troops from Iraq, and refocus them on the effort in Afghanistan. Instead he brought in 30,000 fresh US soldiers, further deepening our involvement in the political affairs of the Middle East.
In Mr. Obama’s speech he announced that he would be bringing those troops home by summer of next year.
“…starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.”
At this point since taking office, the President has not removed any troops from the Middle East. He added troops, and now he is withdrawing them. This is comparative to taking one step backward, and one step forward. Indeed you have moved, but you will find yourself in the same position in which you started.
He went on to say that after this initial reduction was completed, a steady stream of troops would continue coming home as our mission in Afghanistan changed from a combat role to a support role. He stated that this transition would be completed by 2014.
What the President failed to tell us was just how deep our “support” role was going to be. Based on his statement US troops will be coming home steadily, but he gave no indication of the number of US military personnel that would be coming home. What is clear from the President’s statements is that we are not going to be leaving Afghanistan any time in the near future. We are going to have our military stationed there indefinitely.
Mr. Obama continued by bringing up the capture and execution of Osama bin Laden, which he refereed to as “a victory for all who have served since 9/11”. It may have been a victory, but the way in which it was done was shameful by American standards. We sent a hit team of Navy SEALs into another country without notifying the leaders of that country of our mission. We captured Osama bin Laden, killed everyone else in the compound, and then proceeded to shoot an unarmed Osama bin Laden in the head. To top it all off, the body was not even brought back for proof of the missions success. Instead in a shady maneuver the body was buried at sea by US Armed Forces. Regardless of how deplorable and sadistic Osama bin Laden was, he deserved a trial. In the United States of America, if you are charged with a crime, you receive a trial. We are better than this. We as a nation should not stoop to the same level as our enemies. We should be above such barbaric behavior. The dubious methods used in conducting the mission that led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden and the lack of publicly released photographic evidence of the missions success only add fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists who claim that Osama has been dead for years and that the whole mission was a ruse designed to enhance the President’s status in the polls.
The President went on to discuss the effort in Afghanistan and our goals there. As he went on, he turned his attention to Pakistan, saying:
Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us. They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.
If we are unable to diplomatically address the al Qaeda presence in Pakistan it seems very likely based on the President’s statement that he would not hesitate to invade Pakistan just as President Bush invaded Iraq. Where does it stop? We do not have the logistic or monetary resources needed to continue starting wars, or for that matter, to continue the wars in which we are already so grievously engaged.
In an attempt to address critics of our interventionist foreign policy President Obama had this to say:
Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.
Based on Mr. Obama’s statements in this very speech he comes across as a man who believes in an approach more inline with the latter. Why are we an “anchor of global security”? As Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) likes to point out, it is not our job to police the world. The Founding Fathers warned us repeatedly to avoid interfering with the affairs of other nations. This is not an isolationist point of view. The Founders believed in friendship and trade with all nations. The point was that the United States should not become mixed up on the private affairs of other nations! We have strayed so far from the wisdom of their warnings that we now find ourselves at the edge of a precipice of our own making. If we as a country continue on the path upon which we are set, we will meet our undoing. We cannot keep up the current rate of spending without dire consequences. The only responsibility of the US government in relation to security is the security and safety of the American people from imminent danger. Our presence in the Middle East does not work toward such ends. In fact, according to the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources it it likely a detriment to our national security.
Lybia became the next topic of the President’s address. He defended his position by insisting that we are merely offering support to our allies in that mission. He made a point of stating that we have no troops on the ground there. In the mind of the President it seems that war requires troops on the ground, and that bombs simply do not count. This was probably a further attempt to justify committing an act of war against another nation without a declaration of war from the Congress, as is required by the Constitution. Such action can not be justified by the UN or NATO. The United States is a sovereign country. We should never answer to or take orders from any other nation or coalition of nations.
The President followed his statements on Lybia with a comment on the greatness of America which I can only describe as a most shining example of irony, given the rest of his speech:
In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.
It seems outrageous to hear President Obama make such a statement. He, who has broken his oath of office to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic countless times has no standing to invoke the founding principles that he seems to make a point of ignoring at every possible opportunity. What of adhering to the rule of law when dealing with our enemies? When exactly was this done? Certainly not when Osama bin Laden was captured and killed while unarmed at the hands of US forces.
Mr. Obama acknowledged that we have been nation building abroad with his statement that it is now time to focus on nation building at home.
“Nation building” at home should have been the focus all along. The purpose of the US government is to facilitate growth and innovation here, in the United States by providing for the security of its citizens and defending the freedom and liberty of the same. Nation building should never be a function if the US military in a foreign land. Though the hour is late, it is gratifying to have the President acknowledge that while our military has been off globe-trotting the American people have been suffering as a result.
The speech closed with remarks referencing the story of a member of the Navy SEAL team responsible for the mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden, using it as an illustration of teamwork, and the importance of working together. He invoked our founding documents once again as the creed that binds us all together, and finished by laying out the work to be done to “extend the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next.”
The President has failed to do anything to end the wars in the Middle East and this speech simply confirms that he has no intention of doing so. While our role in Afghanistan may diminish, it is evident that we will never be leaving that country, and that we will invade other nations as deemed necessary under the guise of fighting terrorism with or without a Congressional declaration of war. Barack Obama is no better than George W. Bush in this respect. Despite his campaign promises and the platform of the Democratic party, he has no intention ending our involvement in the Middle East. In fact he has actively worked to further engage our military in Lybia as well as Yemen.
Actions speak louder than words.
If you haven’t watched the speech yourself, I will provide it, courtesy of the White House YouTube channel:
If you prefer to read the transcript of the speech, please go here: WhiteHouse.gov Press Room
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