Obama uses V-word in Afghan speech, and we don’t mean victory

December 2, 2009

President Barack Obama uttered it four times in his speech at West Point about the way forward in Afghanistan.

It was the V-word that is often linked with the Q-word that conjures up the ghost of a past war that still is a raw wound in the American psyche.

USA/Obama charged head-on to try and address one of the key fears for Americans about continued involvement in an overseas war by saying that Vietnam, often described as a quagmire, was not Afghanistan.

Invoking Vietnam is usually avoided when trying to make the case for war. But apparently Obama believed saying it out loud would help convince the American public of the need to send 30,000 more troops to a war that has lasted eight years.

Obama addressed critics who suggest Afghanistan is another Vietnam and that the United States should cut its losses and rapidly withdraw. “I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history,” he said.

And he gave the following reasons for why the two wars are not alike:

“Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action.

Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency.

And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.” AFGHANISTAN-USA/

Obama gave a timetable for starting the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, but with a caveat that he would be “taking into account conditions on the ground” (a phrase his predecessor President George W. Bush often used in referring to withdrawing troops from Iraq).

That appeared to leave the door wide open for adjusting the timetable when the time is up.

Former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel also used the V and Q words in talking about Obama’s strategy.

“This is a very bold gamble by the president. It is a bold gamble first of all in terms of Afghanistan where we are in a very difficult situation. This president inherits a quagmire,” he said.

“It is also a bold gamble in terms of American domestic politics. His own party is increasingly divided over this war. His liberal, Democratic base is increasingly tired of it and his own party is haunted by the ghost of Vietnam right now,” Riedel said.

“Wars tend to consume presidencies and this is now Obama’s war.”

Did Obama convince you that Afghanistan will not be his Vietnam?

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama speaks to cadets at West Point)

One comment

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One who is merely concerned about victory and winning armed conflict is shortsighted. The Allies won WW I yet were unable to attain an enduring peace. The borders of nations in Africa, the Near and Middle East were drawn up by the victors of WW I at the Versaille Peace Conference. The overwhelming concern for France and England was to obtain some form of wealth under the guise of war reparations. New colonies to plunder so to speak. Germany was required to pay never ending war debts. The abject poverty and brutality visited upon these nations by French and British rule is largely academic.

Adam Smith the 18th century economic writer(The Wealth of Nations) warns of the use of military force to obtain another nations resources at a favorable price. Most people would resist an occupying force. Eventually the cost of maintaining a military presence on foreign soil will be greater than the cost of doing business. The great threat then is the potential to spend the nation into bankruptcy.

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