Why can’t we fight to the finish this time, so we’ll never have to do it again?

A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again.  If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?

World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable.  By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”

[Verse:]
‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won

[Refrain:]
This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time

This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town

For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then

Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again

Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free

[Coda:]
We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again

Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did.  First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy.  Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies.  It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.

Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.

I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.

Forget all the dead bodies. Repeat after me: the Taliban is our friend.

Sadie played connect the dots for me:

Dots begin here . . . .

After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.

As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.

Dots continue with Joe Biden . . . .

“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”

When you think about it, it’s impressive how much damage an administration can do in less than three years.

Michael Yon takes on Rolling Stone

Years ago, in another life, I dated a man who had worked for Rolling Stone and personally knew Jann Wenner.  (My ex-boyfriend claimed that a well-known Rolling Stone photographer was the one who introduced him to and got him hooked on cocaine.  I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but it made for a good story.)

My old boyfriend had cleaned up his act by the time I met him, and was decently reticent about his past, but it was pretty clear from the few stories he told that (a) Rolling Stone personnel, at least at one time, had embraced the drug culture with gusto and (b) that it was a sleazy, counter-culture magazine.  Today, all you need to do to know that it is still a sleazy, counter-culture (read:  anti-American) magazine is to buy a copy at the store — or, better yet, leaf through one and then abandon it without bothering to buy it.  As for the drug issues that were once a part of the magazine’s culture, perhaps the drugs’ legacy lives on and helps explain the shoddy, vicious journalism that routinely emanates from that saggy, flabby, 1960s era hangover.

Don’t believe me about shoddy, vicious journalism?  I understand that.  My old boyfriend’s stories about the magazine’s past are pure hearsay.  But right now, today, Michael Yon has actual percipient witness journalism on his side when it comes to challenging Rolling Stone’s most recent smear piece about our troops in Afghanistan.  Read Yon and your blood will boil.

Huge kudos to Yon, not only for his own journalism, but for his willingness to take on one of the old media’s sacred cows.

Jaws of victory

Will Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Here’s a very encouraging report about the latest NATO (mostly American forces) offensive in Helmand province, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. I don’t know how much play this will get in the Mass Media, as they generally don’t like to talk about American victories.

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=e26ecf2ee26395baf808e9e46&id=dcfc142250&e=25d267a94d

I am still seething about the Vietnam War, which helped to define my generation. It was a war we won militarily at great sacrifice and lost politically, when we betrayed our treaty obligations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  I believe that the point at which the Vietnam war was lost was when CBS’s Walter Cronkite pronounced the Tet Offensive as an American defeat (it was quite the opposite).

So, here is my question: will the Democrats and MainStream Media repeat history and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or will they play this to a conclusive victory?

Just askin’

The official Bookworm statement on the whole McChrystal/Obama/Petraeus affair *UPDATED*

I feel I should say something, so I will.  Being me, of course, what I say will be discursive.

Re McChrystal:  An excellent general who didn’t hit it off with Obama from the git-go (blame lies, I believe, with Obama), and who failed utterly in the diplomatic discretion category — something that’s true whether you regard the revelations in Rolling Stone as big deals or little ones.  Was the latter a firing offense?  I don’t know.  It depends on how the Commander in Chief chooses to handle it.  Which leads me to Obama….

Re ObamaAs I noted earlier, Obama is either apathetic or agitated.  One of the things about which he’s never been sufficiently agitated is the war in Afghanistan.  Sure, he didn’t pull out immediately, but his initial decisions to announce a withdrawal time table and to refuse to meet with McChrystal until McChrystal was forced to use the media against Obama (something that probably created a bad precedent in terms of McChrystal’s ideas about using the military to achieve his goals) show that he never gave a flying whatsit about American troops trying to win against Muslim jihadists.

On the other side of the scale, the things that do agitate Obama include the Joos; attempts to stop potential new Democratic party voters from sneaky in over the border and sparking crime waves; and offenses to his dignity.  McChrystal committed the latter crime.  Obama could have glossed the whole thing over, downplaying McChrystal’s errors (as he’s done with every one of his other appointees) or he could have done what he did, which is to fire McChrystal for having hurt his feelings.  The only way to come out smelling like a rose from letting his ego lead was for Obama to have appointed someone better than McChrystal.  Which leads me to Petraeus….

Re Petraeus:  When Obama was a Senator, he denigrated Petraeus’ task and, by his behavior, Petraeus himself.  Petraeus, however, is the real deal when it comes to counterinsurgency, and I can’t think of a better person to try his hand at Afghanistan.  Peter Wehner spells out Petraeus’ virtues:

General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.

Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.

What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.

I wish Petraeus every bit of luck available to him.  Combine that luck with his skills and intellect, apply all those to the best military in the world, and there might be a good outcome here (including Obama being able to back down from his withdrawal timetable while still saving face).

Conclusion:  Obama first seeded the lemons, starting with his long-ago refusal to take either General McChrystal or the Afghanistan war serious.  He harvested the lemons when he elected to let his ego lead in what could have been a down-played, and therefore negligible, situation.  And he managed to create lemonade by replace McChrystal with only the best general out there.  Let’s hope the best general chews up Afghanistan, rather than vice versa.

(Just FYI, The Anchoress has a stellar round-up of responses to the whole saga.)

UPDATE:  Bruce Kesler, who understands more about what’s going on than I ever could, is pleased okay with Petraeus’ appointment, but would have preferred General Mattis.  Blackfive thinks the timing of this whole thing is more than a little suspicious.  (The first story will make you happy sanguine; the second, angry.)

UPDATE II:  Was Obama just trying to keep Petraeus out of the 2012 race?  I doubt it.  For one thing, that’s two years ahead, and a lot can change between now and then.  For another thing, I have it on good authority that Petraeus is saying right now, with a straight face, that he’s not running.  If this is preemptive action, it’s really preemptive.  Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.

My sense is that Petraeus genuinely doesn’t want to run.  It’s a lousy job, and Petraeus isn’t an egotist.  He is, however, a patriot.  If he feels that America truly needs his unique skills, Afghanistan will be the smallest part of the U.S.’s problems, and he’ll run regardless.

Memorial Day Post: The Warriors Among Us

[I'll keep this at the top through Memorial Day.  Scroll down for lots of new posts.]

Several years ago, as part of a 9/11 commemoration, I wrote the following words as part of a post I did about Lt. Brian Ahearn, one of the New York fire fighters who perished on that day:

My son, who is seven, is obsessed with superheroes. His current favorite is Superman. After all, when you’re a little boy, battling your way through the world, what could be more exciting than the possibility of being “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” I’m bombarded daily with questions about Superman’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, his flying speeds, his ballistic capabilities and, most importantly, his bravery. It’s here that my son and I run into a conceptual problem. My son thinks Superman is brave because he gets involved in situations that involve guns, and flames, and bad guys. I argue — and how can you argue this with a seven year old? — that the fictional Superman, while good, is not brave, because he takes no risks. Superman’s indestructibility means that his heart never speeds up, his gut never clenches, and he never pauses for even a moment to question whether the potential benefit from acting is worth the risk. In other words, if facing a gun is as easy as sniffing a rose, there is no bravery involved.

The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation. The attacks against America on September 11, 2001, revealed the true superheroes among us — those New York firefighters who pushed themselves past those second thoughts, those all-too-human hesitations, and sacrificed themselves in the hopes of saving others. Lt. Brian G. Ahearn was one of those superheroes.

I’ve been thinking today about that moment of insight I had about courage and heroism, because I’m finally reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  I say “finally,” because the book came out in 2007, and it took me three years to gather my own courage just to read it — and I did so only because of the possibility that I may soon meet the mother of one of those “lost heroes.”  Considering what her son did for my country, forcing myself to read a book about great heroism seemed like the least I could do.

Funnily enough, the book isn’t as painful as I thought it would be.  This is partly because Luttrell, with novelist Patrick Robinson’s able assistance, has a wonderful voice.  His is not a ponderous tome but is, instead, a human story of an East Texas boy who, buoyed up by patriotism and sheer grit, made his way through the insanity of SEAL training, and then found himself in Afghanistan, working to protect American interests and freedoms.

Luttrell’s upbringing, so different from my girly, urban, intellectual childhood is a story in itself.  As for his descriptions of what men push themselves to do to become SEALS — well, I’d heard about it academically, but I’d never understood it viscerally.

To be completely honest, I still don’t understand it.  As a card-carrying wuss, as someone who has always respected her personal comfort zones, and avoided challenging herself, I really don’t “get” what would drive young men, men in their 20s and 30s, to push themselves as hard as these men do.  And the rewarded isn’t a glamorous job, a la Hollywood or Manhattan, with fame, wealth and women.  Being a SEAL is the toughest job in the world, because SEALs end up doing the most dangerous jobs in the world, under the worst, scariest circumstances imaginable.

If you lack physical and mental will, not to mention the overwhelming training SEALs receive, you’re simply a statistic waiting to happen.  But if you do have that stamina, one that resides as much in the mind as it does in the body (perhaps even more in the mind than the body), and if you have this amazing commitment to your team and your country, you can move mountains.

Or sometimes, as SEAL Team 10 so sadly demonstrated, the mountains turn on you.  I am not giving away anything about the book, of course, when I tell you that Luttrell was the sole survivor of a firefight in the Afghan mountain ranges that ended up being the single deadliest day in SEAL history.  Reading about the fight and the deaths of Luttrell’s team member, not to mention his own story of survival, is harrowing.  I don’t want to say I cried, but I’ll admit that my eyes were leaking prodigiously.  Knowing that this would be my inevitable reaction is part of why I avoided Luttrell’s book for so long.  (To excuse myself a little bit, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to get too close to understanding what my father experienced during WWII, as he fought in some of the worst battles around the Mediterranean, including Crete and el Alamein.  Sometimes, empathy can be too painful.)

But really, I shouldn’t have avoided the book.  Yes, the deaths of LT Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz, as well as 16 SEALs and Nightstalkers, whose helicopter was shot down during the rescue mission, is heart wrenching, but the overall tone of the book is still uplifting.  Luttrell’s deep patriotism, his belief in the mission (not any specific mission, but the SEALs’ overarching mission to protect and defend), his abiding love for the SEALs, and the message that there are those who are willing to protect us, often from ourselves, ranks right up there with the most cheerful “feel good” book you can find.

So many people live pointless lives and die meaningless deaths.  One of the tragedies of the 6 million is that they were herded to death like cattle in an abattoir.  I don’t blame them.  They were ordinary people, living ordinary lives, when suddenly they were ripped out of normalcy, and without warning or preparation, sent straight to Hell on earth. Had I had the misfortune to be a Jew in Poland in 1942, instead of a Jew in America at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, that would have been me.  Not just a short life that made no difference, but one that ended with a death that didn’t make a dent in the hide of my murderers.

Some people, however, seem to have bred in the bone and the heart the belief that they will not be ordinary in life or in death.  Mercifully, these are people who don’t need the tawdry fame of Hollywood.  They don’t need the quick fixes of drink and drugs.  They don’t need to become bullies who control others, whether their control is exercised over a country or an office.  Instead, they prepare themselves to serve causes greater than their own egos.  Their lives have purpose and their deaths are never pointless.

Because the genesis of my post is Luttrell’s book, I’ve written this as an homage to the SEALs.  Everything I’ve said though, can be applied equally to the men and women who have fought and, sometimes, died for America, beginning back in 1774.  The fact that they didn’t do it at the level of pain and training one sees in the SEALs does nothing to minimize their courage, their patriotism and their sacrifices.  They are the backbone of our country, the defenders of our freedom:  “The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation.”

(Luttrell, the sole survivor of the SEALS pictured here, is third from the right.)

Other Memorial Day posts:

Flopping Aces

Blackfive

Blackfive (yes, again)

American Digest

Kim Priestap

Michelle Malkin

Mudville Gazette

Florence American Military Cemetery (slow-loading, so don’t worry if nothing happens right away)

Noisy Room

NewsBusters

Hot Air

JoshuaPundit

Radio Patriot

“Simplistic” and “primitive” *UPDATED*

As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction.  The following passages bugged the liberal:

My name is Marcus.  Marcus Luttrell.  I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon.  Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat.  I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic.  But most of all, I’m an American.  And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates.  If necessary, to the death.

And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so.  I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart.  For me, defeat is unthinkable.  (pp. 6-7)

[snip]

[As they're taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush.  (p. 12.)

[snip]

[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:]  This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base.  Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible.  right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.

They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11.  But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers.  They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001.  And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary.  (pp. 13-14)

The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking.  The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11.  My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?”  Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.

UPDATE:  Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

Congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me:  many, many, many congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory.  I never doubted that they would win, but I certainly understood that each Marine and Afghan soldier faced the risk that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for that victory.

Naturally, the Times, rather than celebrating a great military feat, is already trying to set up new (and in Times-land, almost certainly insurmountable) hurdles for our troops.  I have no doubt that our troops will do just fine.

For a reminder about what out-of-control, murderous troops really look like, read this story of the way in which Soviet soldiers raped the women who found themselves in the soldiers’ path during WWII.  There are no, and I mean no, stories like that about our American troops, whether one is looking at WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan.  (Indeed, I bet I could say the same for American troops going back to the Revolutionary War.)  Sure, there are always renegade men who go off and do bad things, but these same men appear periodically in our cities and towns too.  Bad guys exist, but American troops have proven definitively that they are part of a good institution, one that does not use rape as a weapon.

Drifting a little further afield, the fact that American men are not rapists even when they have the power of the military behind them, is also a useful reminder about what a misanthropic religion Islam is.  (And no, I didn’t get confused and substitute misanthropic for misogynistic.)  While it’s certainly true that one of Islam’s most glaring deficiencies is its desperate desire to subjugate women out of fear of their sexuality, it’s quite obvious that the Islamists hide from feminine sexuality because they believe men to be inherently weak.  In the Islamic world, the theory goes, any man, upon seeing a woman, will be incapable of refraining from raping her.  That is a scathing indictment of men.

In stark contrast, American men are civilized creatures.  Sure, they might leave the toilet seats up, scratch their crotches in public, and belch at inappropriate times, but when push comes to shove, they are models of self-control.

So, in thinking it through, congratulations are due to our Marines, not only for being great warriors, but also for being great human beings.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

That wacky Pashtun culture

I don’t have a comment here.  I just think this story is interesting:

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

[snip]

In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually — “because they were not homosexuals.”

Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man — but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”

[snip]

The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.

The report said: “When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, ‘How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.’”

Hat tip:  Neptunus Lex

Even Obama couldn’t placate his extreme base

Despite giving the generals almost 75% fewer troops than the 80,000 they really wanted (and even significantly less than the 40,000 they sort of wanted), and despite telling the Taliban and Al Qaeda exactly when the field is theirs, and despite dwelling morbidly on death in front of the men and women at West Point who will be going to the field of battle, Obama still couldn’t placate everyone on his side of the political spectrum.  A couple of hundred gathered in S.F. to make their protests known — and Protest Shooter was there to capture them on film (or on digital images, I guess).

Excerpts of Obama’s speech indicate he will do the right thing for the wrong reasons *UPDATED*

As I write this, Obama hasn’t spoken yet, but he has released excerpts from his speech.  These are my first thoughts on his words:

“The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.” [This is good.  This is what Obama needed to do.  It's one thing as a candidate to demand that the sitting president lose the war.  It's another thing entirely for the former-candidate, now-president to preside over another 1975.  Having spent ten, agonizing, demoralizing months trying to figure this one out, Obama is finally doing the right thing.]

“Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility – what’s at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world.”  [Is it just me, or did Obama completely avoid that old-fashioned word "victory" or that nice little phrase "win the war"?  Obama is such a Leftist he really cannot contemplate the possibility of a "we win, you lose" scenario.  To him, success is manifestly a way out, victory or not (and see the next paragraph to get what I mean).  Also, unless Obama expands upon it in his speech tonight, he's said nothing about the nature of the threat against us.  To say that "security" is "at stake" is meaningless without explaining who the enemy is, and what an enemy victory means.  Given the Islamists' willingness to spell out in words of one syllable their plans regarding the West, Obama should be able to articulate the danger they pose.  Again, he simply can't seem to make himself say certain words:  "The Taliban, a fundamentalist branch of Islam that sheltered and trained the terrorists who killed more than 3,000 Americans on 9/11, is resurgent and spreading.  It must be cut out, root and branch, in order to ensure that its members' willingness to attack us directly, and indirectly (by taking over our allies, such as Pakistan), is destroyed."  See?  It's simple -- but not for Obama.]

“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.”  [Here's the kicker to the two preceding paragraphs.  Obama is not in this for victory against a determined and violent enemy that has already attacked America and Europe and that continues to threaten to West's security.  Instead, he's adding troops as a predicate to an orderly retreat.  He doesn't want to win.  He wants to escape.  Obama has also done something incredibly stupid by announcing his date of departure.  If I were the Taliban, I'd simply retreat into caves for a couple of years, wait for Americans to withdraw, and then return to the field.  Obama should announce that U.S. and allied forces will depart when the war against the Taliban has achieved certain milestones, not when a specific date hits on the calendar.]

Bottom line: Obama’s doing the right thing (thank God), but for the wrong reasons. The question is whether our strong and determined American military can achieve victory when the Commander in Chief (a) refuses to name the enemy and is afraid of the “V” word and (b) has given the enemy a specific time line, after which they are free to pursue their theocratic totalitarian goals?

UPDATE:  Well, the speech is over and done now.  I gather that Obama did spell out more clearly what the threat actually is, but for the most part that he tracked along the excerpts I discussed above.  I also gather that I, although unversed in military strategy, pretty much caught onto the myriad flaws in the approach.  Otherwise, how could I have tracked so closely with Steve Schippert’s informed analysis?

The incoherence emanating from the White House *UPDATE*

One of the best things George Bush did during his presidency was to appoint the late, great Tony Snow as his press secretary.  Snow was a dream press secretary, straight out of central casting:  handsome, intelligent, erudite, informed, charming and witty.  Even the savagely anti-Bush press appeared to enjoy his statements and, once he was up there at the podium, they had a much harder time attacking George Bush’s policy initiatives.

Barack Obama, who is making a presidential career out of being the un-Bush, has also done a 180 when it comes to his press secretary.  Robert Gibbs is the Bizarro World version of Snow.  In place of Snow’s many virtues, Gibbs is visually unappealing, which would be meaningless if it wasn’t accompanied by an uninformed boorishness that permeates his every utterance.  The White House press has been giving him a pass because he’s the front person for their idol, but any objective listener would have to conclude that the man is a fool — or, which might be even worse, he plays a fool in order to obfuscate entirely what his employer is doing.

Gibbs’ primary problem (or, if you incline to the obfuscatory theory, his primary virtue) is that he is unintelligible.  Today, he gave a perfect example of a ten cent man using three dollar words (emphasis mine):

TAPPER:  When more troops are sent into a country, inevitably it results in more casualties, when the military presence and fighting is increased. Is the president going to — is that going to be part of the president’s message tomorrow, to prepare the American people for the fact that, while an exit strategy exists, the next year or two is going to be perhaps bloodier than even the last six months?

GIBBS:  Well, I — and we’ve discussed this before. I think the amount of sacrifice that we’ve seen from the men and women that we have there already is something that I know the president is assured by each and every day. I think — you know, he signs letters of condolence.  He meets with the families of those that have been killed.  Obviously, the trip to Dover is something that I doubt you ever truly forget.  I think the president will reiterate the importance of why we’re there, but also, by all means, very early on, acknowledge the tremendous cost and sacrifice to our men and women in uniform.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that we are all in awe of — of the commitment from our military and our civilian side in order to get this right.

What in the world does the above mean?  The question is whether the president is going to prepare the American people for the fact that, with more troops, there’s more fighting; and with more fighting, we can anticipate more casualties.  It’s a good question, because we saw precisely that result with the Iraq Surge.  At the time, the press  immediately fell into a hysterical dizzy about body counts, until it became obvious to them, and to the rest of the world, that, on the battle field as on the surgery table, a quick cauterization sees some significant initial trauma, but then completely stops the flow of blood.  A smart president would help the American people understand this fact, so that they could support this mini-surge without panic.

Given the sensible question, Gibbs could easily have returned with a sensible answer. Instead, Gibbs tells us that Obama is “assured” by those troops who have already fought, been wounded and died on Afghani soil.  Hey!  He’s even written condolence letters.  This talk isn’t merely non-responsive, it’s nonsense.  What does the fact that the president finds American deaths “assuring,” and that he signs off on letters, have to do with the pragmatic issue of preparing Americans for the short-term hits and long-term benefits of a Surge?

Only after spewing the crude and painful nonsense does Gibbs make a stab at actually answering the question and, typically, he answers it wrong.  Instead, of making the point I made, which is that the military is willing to make a short term sacrifice to assure a long-term benefit, Gibbs waffled on about how troops are going to die — and how the White House really, really appreciates the fact that they’re going to make this sacrifice to “get this right.”  It’s unclear whether the “this” that the troops are supposed to die for in order to “get [it] right” is America’s national security, or Obama’s political stability.

Gibbs’ response is appalling at every level.  It’s stupid, unintelligible, insensitive, and strategically and politically wide of the mark.

Gibbs doesn’t improve when Tapper asks about long-term political goals in Afghanistan.  First, Gibbs has no idea what the issue is:

TAPPER:  And just in terms of defining our terms, where does making sure that we have a stable Afghan partner and — and nation- building begin?  What’s the line? Is it just — is it just a question of our responsibility, U.S. responsibility being training Afghan troops?  It’s just — that’s the safe and secure part, the safe and stable partner part? Because we’ve heard a lot about what the U.S. intends to do, and I know you don’t want to get ahead of the president’s speech, but just in terms — if you could define the terms a little for us.

GIBBS:  Well, I — I guess I would more ask you to — I don’t — I’m unclear as to what continuum you’re putting.  Are you asking me to — to put them on a certain…

I’ll concede that Tapper got a bit wordy there, but the question is clear: He’s asking Gibbs to explain how the Surge will assure a stable Afghanistan.  If Gibbs was at all intelligent, he’d seize the question and spout a party line:  “The president anticipates that there will be X number of months of harder fighting until the situation on the ground is stabilized.  Even as the Surge goes forward, however, we will be working with the Karzai government….”  Simple.  Anyone can do it, even someone who actually has no idea what the facts on the ground are.  Gibbs, however, struggles visibly to figure out what the heck the question means.

When Tapper clarifies, Gibbs goes from bad to worse, lapsing eventually into complete incoherency:

TAPPER:  Well, the president has said about the new strategy that it’s important that we have a secure, stable ally in the Afghan…

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS:  Right. Well, and a partner that is — and a partner that understands, as the president directly told President Karzai in a telephone call in the Oval Office, that it is time to turn — it’s time for a new chapter in our relationship as it relates to corruption and improved governance in order to address the security situation not just through training and security force needs, but also — look, it’s hard for a civilian — it’s hard for civilians to go in and improve areas — it’s impossible — that aren’t secure.  So I would say this is all part of what has to be a partnership. And I think anybody would tell you that — that — and I’ve said this, and I think, quite frankly, you’ve seen this from Democrats and Republicans in Congress — without partners that are willing to do stuff in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, no number of American troops can solve all of those problems unless or until those steps are taken inside both of those countries where we see a change in the security situation.

Again, what in the world does Gibbs mean?  There’s not a single declarative sentence in there.  Let me translate what he said in simple English, so that you can see that he didn’t say anything:

Tapper question:  How will the Surge work to stabilize the Afghani political scene?

Gibb-erish answer:  A partner works with you.  Karzai is the man Obama talks to.  Obama talked to Karzai on the phone.  He actually called him from the Oval Office.  He said that Karzai needs to work on the corruption and governance thing, so that civilians can go places.  (Bookworm here:  It’s unclear whether Obama wants Karzai to do away with corruption or simply do it better.  If it was any president other than Obama, I’d assume the former.  Given our President’s background in Chicago politics and community organizing, though, I really am not prepared to assume what Gibb meant with this babble.)  We need a partner.  Everyone agrees we need a partner.  Even troops aren’t partners.  So, we need a partner.

Let me distill Gibbs’ puerile utterances even further.  Tapper asked how the Surge will link to the Afghani political scene, whether in the short or long term.  Gibb-erish responded by saying “we need a partner.”  Objection, your honor.  Nonresponsive.

During the campaign, Obama, holding tightly to his teleprompter and prepared speeches, seduced the audience with dreamy platitudes about the intangibles of hope and change, and with concrete lies about his actual political agenda.  Now that the campaign is over, Obama has no deal with real issues and real problems.  He’s had to fire Hopey and Changey, two dwarfs who have no place in actual governance, especially when the governance is trying hard to drag the country to a bankrupt Left.  In their place, if Obama had demonstrated any of the smarts his acolytes attribute to him, he would have delegated the job of communications to a smart guy like Doc.  Instead, he went for Dopey, with the obvious results.  As for me, this whole thing is making me Grumpy.

UPDATE:  In the first item in Monday’s Best of the Web Today, James Taranto suggests that Gibbs’ incoherence may originate with the boss.