Last night I watched Obama's speech on Afghanistan (at a bar... yes, the bar I was at played Obama's speech on their big projector TV. It's that kind of place). Seems like everyone's talking about that 18-month deadline, especially conservatives who are busy with their "OMG it's a road map for the Taliban!!!!1!1!1" bullshit.
Here's the thing about that deadline, though - it's not going to be a hard-and-fast limit. Does anyone seriously think that Obama's going to start pulling troops out if we're making progress against the Taliban and another few months will make us safer? I doubt it. Obama's already proven with the health care thing that deadlines are more suggestions to him. Why should this be any different?
What the deadline does, however, is signal to the Afghan people that we're not there indefinitely. That's a good move, in my opinion. We've been there for eight years, and no doubt Obama realizes that some of the increase in support for the Taliban comes from the worry that America is intending to be an occupying power. Obama said as much during the speech, telling Afghans that we're there to be their friends, not their patrons.
Greenwald fleshes out this idea a little bit more, saying that it's a good thing that Obama didn't try to turn this into some humanitarian issue and instead kept the focus on our narrow interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While there are many of us who might want to see Afghanistan become a beacon of human rights, I don't think we can force that on them by the use of military force. Afghans recognize that sort of rhetoric as empty and as justification for overstaying our welcome. We could say "spread human rights to Afghans" but the Afghans would just hear "subjugate and occupy Afghanistan."
So now the Afghans know that we're not there on some ill-defined humanitarian mission and that we'll be out as soon as we've neutralized the Taliban and al-Qaeda. McChrystal has the surge he needs to get the job done. Americans have a clear objective and an assurance that the whole thing will be over soon. Obama chose the best of a bunch of bad options here.
One more thing on the war: quit calling Afghanistan "Obama's war." He inherited this war from Bush. It's not "Obama's war" any more than Vietnam was Nixon's war or Korea was Eisenhower's war. It's a bullshit meme and it needs to stop.
In other news...
- The War on Hanukkah is back. Why do these people hate Hanukkah so much, not to mention New Year's Day?
- New York is debating and voting on marriage equality. If it's passed, citizen initiatives cannot overturn it. More on that as it happens.
- Tiger Woods did something. No one actually cares except the news networks, who apparently don't want to actually go out and look for real news.
- World Cup draw is Friday. Again, more on that as it occurs.
- Swiss voters, apparently trying to do an impression of a hyper-douchey HOA, voted to ban minarets from the entire country. Next on the ballot - pink flamingoes. Or maybe they could join us North Carolinians and ban clotheslines.
If you hear the phrase "Should the government ban..." and your default response isn't to scream NO! at the top of your lungs, I'm in favor of banning you from voting. Sure, some bans can actually do some good, but banning should be reserved for cases when the safety and liberty of others is seriously, and involuntarily, put at risk. No other situations warrant a ban.