Obama Goes to Dover

ObamaDover.jpgSpeaking as one who has been critical of most of President Obama’s domestic initiatives this year, I find myself in the curious position of having to praise him three times in one week. First, he moved to finally provide long overdue improvements to the nation’s power grid. Then he worked with Congressional leadership to shut down foreign tax dodge schemes. (Sadly, with Charlie Rangel’s name on it.) And now, in the wee hours of the morning, he visited Dover Air Force Base to witness the return of the remains of American troops killed in combat.

I have a bad feeling that some of our conservative and Republican supporting friends are going to attack this as some sort of cheap political stunt or “using the bodies of our heroes for political gain,” but those of us who have been there might see it otherwise. The President is in the midst of wrestling with a very important decision regarding our future course in Afghanistan, and this is one aspect of that weighty choice which should never be far from his mind.

I have, unfortunately, had to attend a number of military funerals, including three in my own family. It is a powerful and moving experience which reminds us of the real price we pay in war and the debt and honor we owe to those who volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way in the defense of our country. It’s a very different experience than simply watching it on television or reading lists of casualty numbers in the newspaper. I’m glad that Obama took the time to fly out to Dover and witness this in person. He should also make time to go to the funerals of some of these men if the families choose to invite him.

The President owes us a comprehensive answer on what his plans are in Afghanistan. And I, for one, am glad that he is being deliberative and careful on this, so I’m willing to give him a reasonable amount of time to research and arrive at a decision. When he does reach a conclusion, I must insist that he be able to answer three questions for us, and they come straight from the Powell Doctrine.

1. What is our end goal in Afghanistan and what would constitute victory?
2. What resources do you require to achieve that victory? (And then we give him roughly twice that amount.)
3. Once that victory is achieved, what is your exit strategy to get us out and roughly when should we expect that to happen?

If the President can not succinctly answer all three of those questions, then we need to stop paddling around in circles in Afghanistan and get the hell out of there. And the biggest question for most Americans, I believe, is the first of the three. Are we still there for the express purpose of defeating those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001? Do we have some updated, plausible plan which will do further serious damage to AQ, (realizing we can never eliminate them entirely) finally capture/kill Osama bin Laden, or otherwise vastly reduce the threat of international terrorism? If so, then I may get behind a plan to continue or even expand our involvement.

But if the plan has now morphed into some sort of long term exercise in nation building, then I say we begin packing up our things right now and get the hell out of there. Robert Gibbs told us last night that the President is nearing the end of this decision process. I, for one, will be waiting to hear what those answers are. But in the meantime, this was a worthwhile trip for the President to make and I’m glad he did it.

More reactions at Memeorandum

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  • CStanley

    Agreed- give him credit where due. Our CIC should always be committed to this difficult task during wartime.

  • DaGoat

    Jazz, I agree with one of your points and not with another.

    First – good job to Obama going to Dover, especially at night and with little fanfare. There had to be some temptation to milk it for publicity, and he deserves credit for his quiet and dignified approach.

    Second – on Afghanistan, you are more patient than I am. The Afghan government has been shaky for some time, the situation there has been deteriorating for years, and I just can't buy the explanation that the recent election disputes justify delaying his decisions.

    Moreover, I have a strong suspicion that some of the delay is political. Obama painted himself into a corner with his saber-rattling during the campaign, portrayal of Afghanistan as a necessary war and criticism of Bush not being more aggressive in Afghanistan. He is faced then with not only having to evaluate the political and military aspects of Afghanistan, but the political fallout to himself. On that aspect I have little patience or sympathy.

  • tidbits

    Every President makes some mistakes and gets some things right. Failure to recognize that is evidence of a lack of objectivity. Honoring our troops is getting it right.

  • DLS

    Well, the “smart grid” announcement was gimmickry compared to real transmission construction and uprating (in voltage, using additional right-of-way rather than having to acquire new corridors), and it is a labor-saving measure as far as the power companies are concerned. Shutting down foreign tax evasion schemes should be also viewed critically, as the work of an avaricious (and hypocritical, in Rangel's case) federal government.

    But going to Dover is a spotless decision.

    * * *

    “some of the delay [in sending troops to Afghanistan] is political”

    Yes, as Obama and the Dems have been faltering on domestic issues, currently, and they need to regain their composure, particularly with health care “reform,” which they may now appear to be doing.

    Plus Obama needs to keep making big-donation appearances and build up the Demmies' campaign coffers before its farther-left constituents rebel at any troop commitment (which the Dover appearance may, in fact, signal).

  • DLS

    “What is our end goal in Afghanistan and what would constitute victory?”

    1. Afghanistan versus Pakistan — allocation as well as deployment issues

    2. Troops on the ground versus air strikes and UAV gizmology (risking the Rumsfeld approach, at worst)

    3. Size of any commitment — go for broke, with everything up front, or retaining reserves (how much?)

  • http://thegrandestpanjandrum.blogspot.com TheGrandPanjandrum

    Rather than going to funerals, I would prefer he go with the notification team. Go knock on the door of the fallen's next of kin and see the faces. Look into their eyes. He'll never forget it. I know I haven't.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    As much as I would love to see that I first can't think of it ever happening in this country and therefore think that it would be seen as a political move and he would be instantly crucified for it. Still that is a move that would show brass balls that I would vote for, because I can think of nothing that would relay the feelings of the citizens of this nation toward their fallen soldiers than for a president himself to relay the news and eternal gratitude of the republic.

  • Almoderate

    Have to agree with you, there. Wouldn't this be a different country if every American president had to personally deliver those notifications?

  • Silhouette

    Oh my yes. I elect Dick Cheney to have to do it for all returning dead.

    Obama's not the one who lacks compassion for our servicepeople.

    What exactly are we trying to do in the region BTW? What EXACTLY is it that keeps us in Af/Pak? Is there some resource we're after? Please don't cite a “need to establish democracy”. I left my barf bag at the airport. There are plenty of countries having trouble with dictatorships and pernicious oligarchies. Why aren't we there? Is Af/Pak our part of the Iraq bargain with Britain? Are they trying to have us help them stabliize the region for the sake of their hold on India's goodies?

    Are we desperate for yak fur? What up?

  • DLS

    “it would be seen as a political move and he would be instantly crucified for it”

    To me that's secondary to the more-ordinary or popular[ist] concern, that it would come to be often or always expected of him. Once setting a precedent, it would tend (intended or not) to establish a pattern.

    * * *

    “What exactly are we trying to do in the region BTW? What EXACTLY is it that keeps us in Af/Pak? Is there some resource we're after?”

    No. Your conspiracist slip is showing again. [staring]

    It has to do with fighting the terrorism more than establishing a more democratic and developed nation in Afghanistan (setting them in that direction, more precisely), and fighting terrorism and supporting the government in Pakistan (at least paying lip service to this), because as with Saudi Arabia, supporting these “allies” of us is better than letting them likely fall, and be replaced by something worse. Old stuff.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    At one time we wanted to build an oil pipeline through Afgh. but I am unsure if that project was scrapped or moved forward. The reason we are there though is that the keys to a muscular Islamic state sit in Pakistan and if we are no longer relieving pressure on Pakistan the militants may turn on their host country which has nukes and a strong though compromised military. Other than that I think we are continuing the Pottery Barn “you break it you bought it”rule. I do not know how we can avoid Pakistan devolving into an Islamic state anymore from the reports that I have been reading. The only “option” I see is possible invasion which we cant afford and is at best a 50/50 shot with the bad 50% meaning that Pakistan reforms as an Islamist state and begins to pull down Afgh and its neighbors with it while threatening anyone that even thinks about trying to stop them with nukes and the good 50% meaning a decade long commitment or more nation building with large amounts of casualties. Sadly I think the bad 50% is likely to happen in the next 10 years unless some major game changer happens but I have no clue what game changer could happen that would make this any better.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    I agree that it is in our interests to prop up Pakistan but not Saudi Arabia, I really think that is one area that our foreign policy is just down right stupid.

  • DLS

    “At one time we wanted to build an oil pipeline through Afgh.”

    Yes — perfectly sensible and rational on its face: Ship Caspian petroleum products on a route that avoids Iran and Russia (and, note, Pakistan).

    One problem: Afghanistan is unsafe and unstable.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Exactly, i think that is why the idea fell off the map. I had also not thought about it setting a precedent if he went around and informed some families, very good point.

  • DaGoat

    At one time we wanted to build an oil pipeline through Afgh. but I am unsure if that project was scrapped or moved forward.

    Do you mean the gas pipeline that Michael Moore suggested was the secret motive behind 9/11?

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    He did?? Sorry, I missed that one I was speaking of the pipeline I heard discussed around 2002-2003 on NPR to by pass Iran. Don't get me wrong I am a rust belt dem and I love me some MM but I missed that one or have forgotten it one or the other. As I understood it at the time though the Taliban was not blocking the pipeline while they were in power so I hardly see that as a motive #1 and #2 if it was why didn't we say it was Iran instead since its easier to go through them rather than bypass if we are making stuff up. The last I heard of it though was between 2002-2003 when they were saying that the project would move forward when the facts on the ground allowed but that has yet to materialize.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Afghanistan_

    This would be the pipeline.

  • DLS

    “it is in our interests to prop up Pakistan but not Saudi Arabia”

    Oil security is the #1 US vital interest in the Middle East. (Americans generally value it over #2, Israel's safety.)

    Having Saudi Arabia fall to terrorists would make the region unstable and threaten all the neighboring states.

    Having Saudi Arabia fall to terrorists would put the greatest oil wealth promptly into their hands.

    (Related to this: I have always been concerned that we'll neglect Egypt, which is not a major oil exporter and which is lesser known as a terrorism locus, and Egypt's government could then fall — and Egypt has plenty of modern weaponry.)