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November 27, 2009
Mission accomplishable (II)By Greyhawk
Four years ago this weekend, President Bush unveiled his U.S. National Strategy for Victory in Iraq in a speech at the US Naval Academy. Now President Obama will be doing the same for Afghanistan - but his speech will be given at West Point.
They're different, you see.
A polling oddity: while 58% of Democrats feel "the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan now," 63% approve of the president's handling of the war. Party loyalty explains that, of course. But turning to Republicans, only 22% feel the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, and only 20% approve of the president's handling of the war. Once again, party loyalty (to the other party) could explain the president's approval numbers, but it's striking that across party lines the number of people who oppose the war is remarkably close to the number who approve of the president's handling of it.
So while Democrats may have bailed on the Afghanistan war faster than they did Iraq, at least they still support their president's handling of it. So far. But so far few would acknowledge he's been doing anything other than "considering his options" or "taking a thoughtful approach" to a monumental decision. (What Republicans call "dithering".) So with his speech at West Point Obama needs to keep his hold on that approval from within his Party - and perhaps even get some of his fans to transfer their approval of who he is to approval of what he does - while maintaining Republican approval of American efforts in Afghanistan. (Which he can at least hope will lead some to approve of who he is - whether they'll admit it or not.)
Certainly George Bush was never confronted with that complexity on Iraq; Republicans approved of him and the war, Democrats held an opposite view. In many regards that is simpler than the situation confronting Obama as he prepares his post-Thanksgiving West Point speech. That's part of what senior Obama aides mean when they say the challenges Obama faces in the Afghan war are more complex and bigger than those faced by Bush and the war in Afghanistan will be much tougher than Iraq - certainly from their perspective it will be.
Which is why we've been promised that if we tune in Tuesday we'll hear talk from West Point of "finishing the job" and "exit strategies", and that "Obama's Afghan Strategy Will Contain Messages to Several Audiences" even though "Mr. Obama's own aides concede the messages directed at some may undercut the messages sent to others."
"Exit strategy," you may recall, is a catch phrase from the 2006 election campaign. It polled well back then. In fact, it helped propel the Democrats who popularized it as their approach to the Iraq war to control of both houses of Congress that year. Never mind that the opposite of what was promised actually happened, such is the stuff of politics in America, and the real mission was accomplished in November. The attraction of the phrase wasn't resisted by all Republicans, either; many were willing to at least hedge their bets on supporting their president on the Iraq issue. An example: when asked about her support for the president's plan for the surge in early 2007, the then-relatively unknown and newly-elected Republican Governor of Alaska replied that "while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place..." (Though in fairness she also acknowledged she had been focused primarily on State issues).
Exit strategies polled well then, perhaps that magic will work once again.
George Bush unveils his Plan for Victory in Iraq at the US Naval Academy in November, 2005. "In World War II, victory came when the empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri," the president said at the time. "In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship." President Obama would modify that statement years later for his own use: "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur," Obama told ABC News last July.
One reason "exit strategy" was such a popular term can be traced back to November, 2005. Exactly four years ago in a speech delivered at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, President Bush unveiled his path to victory in Iraq.
The plan had three elements - political, security, and economic - and pledged U.S. aid in helping the government and people of Iraq develop institutions that could advance and sustain all three, even while "coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy."
However, the president added, "today I want to speak in depth about one aspect of this strategy that will be critical to the victory in Iraq, and that's the training of Iraq security forces."
But George Bush never cared much for the polls.
And Afghanistan is not Iraq and President Obama is not President Bush. Among other things, he's giving his post-Thanksgiving speech announcing a new approach to Afghanistan (not Iraq) at West Point (not Annapolis). And even if "some of those involved in the deliberations on an Afghanistan strategy say Mr. Obama will argue that providing the additional numbers is the fastest way to assure that the United States will be able to "finish the job," because it will speed the training of the Afghan national army" we're still looking forward to hearing what else is new.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 27, 2009 2:07 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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