Saturday, November 14, 2009

President Obama, dither quietly, please

Somewhat unusually for a right-wing death beast I haven't had much to say about Barack Obama. The way I see it, the man has a lot on his plate and needs to be given a chance to sort things out. That said, Obama drives me wild just about every time he opens his mouth. His Fort Hood "shout-out" the other day was truly appalling. Now he's made on the record remarks that will certainly undermine the morale of those serving in Afghanistan, or about to be sent there:

On a stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska on his way to Asia, Obama told a military audience he will commit more forces to Afghanistan only if it is vital to U.S. interests and receives public support.

"I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America's vital interests," Obama told the troops.

"And if it is necessary," he said, "the United States of America will have your back. We'll give you the strategy and the clear mission you deserve. We'll give you the equipment and support you need to get the job done. And that includes public support back home."

Now imagine you're a soldier in Afghanistan and you've just heard your President express doubts about your mission - it may not be vital, it could be unnecessary. That'll give you something to mull over the next time you're out and about, not knowing when you might get shot at, mortared, suicide-attacked or roadside-bombed. Your commander-in-chief has been trying to decide for a month what to do in Afghanistan while you're risking your life possibly unnecessarily. That would make you feel something less than all warm on the inside, now wouldn't it?

This will give you and your mates something to discuss and think about, all of you wondering exactly why you should risk your lives engaging in operations that might soon be deemed to be, well, pointless. But it is nice to know that if the President does decide it's worth staying in Afghanistan he's going to make sure you get the support you deserve.

Life as a soldier is tough enough as it is; the President shouldn't be undermining morale through ill considered public statements. This doesn't mean the President should lie to the troops; he just needs to be more careful. And if he does decide to pull out of Afghanistan he needs to have a plan for a quick exit so that as few soldiers as possible are put at risk during withdrawal.

George Bush might be famous for mangling the language but Barack Obama is in a league of his own when it comes to dumb utterances. Bush seemed to have a natural rapport with, and understanding of, soldiers. But when it comes to military matters it's glaringly obviously Obama has no clue.

Update: An Afghanistan survey finds unit morale rates are "significantly lower" than in 2005 or 2007.


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