Victor Davis Hanson: Dean Obama

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.]

That was such a strange speech. Deploring partisanship while serially trashing Bush at each new talking point. Sending more troops, but talking more about when they will come home rather than what they will do to the enemy. There was nothing much new in the speech, yet apparently it took the president months to decide whether even to give it.

Ostensibly the talk was to be on Afghanistan; instead, the second half mostly consisted of the usual hope-and-change platitudes.

Still, the president, to his credit, is trying to give the best picture of the Afghanistan war. Obama started well in his review of why George Bush removed the Taliban. But that disinterested narrative lasted about two minutes. Then came the typical Obama talking points that characterize his reset-button foreign policy and don't offer a high degree of confidence that our commander-in-chief wants to defeat the enemy or believes that he can win the war:

1) Bush did it. Supposedly Bush neglected Afghanistan by going into Iraq, leaving Obama with this mess. (He does not mention why Iraq was largely won, much less why Afghanistan has been going backward the last ten months. If Bush was wrong in going into Iraq, exactly who was right in securing that country?)

2) Avoiding the V-word. Concluding the war seems to be the theme, as opposed to winning the war. "Breaking the momentum" of the Taliban, unfortunately, is not the same as crushing and humiliating the enemy. "Ending the war successfully" lacks the force of "defeating" the enemy and securing "victory." Rather than talk for ten minutes in soaring platitudes, we need 20 seconds devoted to the notion that we will win, the Taliban will lose, and Afghanistan will be secured. His emphasis on civilian and political strategies is fine, but those strategies are first predicated on security. If you are surging, then, darn it, tell the American people that we will secure a military victory...
Read entire article at Private Papers (website of Victor Davis Hanson)

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Donald Wolberg - 12/5/2009

Mr. Obama's West Point speech is akin to slamming into another fire hydrant and telephone pole, except unlike Mr. Woods, where the gremlins are miserable behavior with lots of ladies, Mr. Obama's gremlins are his own words and miserable leadership qualities as President. Mr. Woods may claim that the Devil made him do it--he seems to be struggling for an excuse--while Mr. Obama finds a ready made excuse in, "It's Mr. Bush's fault." Mr. Obama will fail just as Mr. Woods is bound for failure, and the exposure to reason will be the final judge. Unfortunately, one saddens with the prospect of more deaths to Americans and our partners in a struggle Mr. Obama cannot understand and is unable to decide that the lives of our soldiers depends on a clear path to victory. Mr. Obama is not able to say we need to kill the bad guys before we leave, and that is exactly what we will do.