Thursday, December 03, 2009

Obama, Churchill, Tigger and Eeyore

The reviews of Obama's West Point speech announcing the surge-and-draw down strategy for Afghanistan are basically consistent -- he's on Jimmy Carter's level of inspiring the troops and the American people.

The Monk agrees with the surge strategy and likes the accelerated timetable Obama called for (but dislikes the predetermined withdrawal date). The Monk also agrees with every commentator who criticized Obama for dithering for months about implementing it. The speech, before the Army Corps of Cadets, was far from the "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" Churchill promised as he also vowed that

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . .

As former WSJ writer Tunku Varadarajan noted (link in title), Obama's speech was more than a cut or two below Churchill's in stridency and determination. Instead, it reminded him of the dismal donkey from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh:

What has struck me most about Obama's Afghan enterprise--and his speech did not cause me to alter my view--is how obvious it is that he doesn't really want to do it. He wants to do health care. Obama has tried every delaying trick in the book--waiting for three months after Gen. McChrystal's request for more troops, having meeting after meeting after meeting, sending Gen. Jones to tell McChrystal not to ask for more troops, having his economic team say it will cost too much, framing the venture in terms of "exit strategies" rather than victory, etc. His ambivalence was on naked display [last night]. Can you imagine Churchill delivering a speech like this, one so full of a sense of the limitation of national possibilities? No wonder Hillary [Clinton]--when the camera panned to her--looked like she needed a drink. No wonder the cadets all looked so depressed. Would you want Eeyore for commander in chief?

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