Obama uses V-word in Afghan speech, and we don’t mean victory
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.
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.
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?
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama speaks to cadets at West Point)