The speech, given in the Eisenhower auditorium at West Point, reminded me of President Eisenhower, the former general who led allied forces to victory in Europe in World War Two, the man called back to serve his nation, and a man who was hard on the ears when it came to delivering a speech. It made him more human. We forgave him his blunt manner. After all, he had spent his whole adult life in the U.S. Army, taking and giving orders.
Similarly President Bush never seemed all that comfortable giving a set speech, but you knew he meant what he said. You knew he hated the evil of al Qaeda and the Taliban. You knew he despised Saddam Hussein and other enemies of America, of freedom, and human dignity. He was not smooth, not articulate, but he was genuine.
Barack Hussein Obama never spent a day in uniform and something in the area of two years out of six of his first term in the Senate before being launched on the nation as its savior, its messiah. I always found the references to spiritual powers jarring though, like most, amusing in their over-reach. Obama did nothing to discourage the image.
His West Point speech was primarily political. The military elements revealed a get-in and get-out strategy in what has already been a long engagement of the U.S. military in the Middle East.
It was filled with talk of NATO partners, Afghani partners, and Pakistani partners, but it also told the enemy that, if they were just patient enough, the U.S. would leave.
Wars, the generals tell us, have to be fought in terms of what the enemy does, not by any timetable we devise. Obama handed us, al Qaeda, and the Taliban a timetable.
When we leave, the Afghan government will still be as corrupt as ever. When we leave the Pakistan government will be as shaky as ever, though perhaps a bit bolder in its desire to resist the Taliban.
Obama made a powerful argument for the need to stamp out the Taliban and kill al Qaeda. He also said that both had “defiled” Islam “one of the world’s great religions.”
Islam is also the world’s single most violent and destabilizing ideology, causing death and spreading terror recently in the Philippines, destroying Somalia, and with a list of atrocities from Mumbai, India, to Madrid, Spain, to London, England. And, of course, on 9/11.
Islam struck again at Fort Hood, Texas.
The one undeniable fact of our times is that the U.S. and the civilized world are in an open-ended war with Islam.
Ironically, one of the expressed aims of al Qaeda is the overthrow of the monarchs, despots or elected leaders of Middle Eastern Islamic nations.
Neither al Qaeda’s soldiers, nor the Taliban, wear uniforms. They are classic guerrilla fighters, fading away like fog into the indigenous population. Not since the day of the Kamikaze, has the world witnessed suicide as an act of war.
While listening to our young President, I was reminded, too, of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, possibly one of the greatest ever delivered in America since Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
On that cold January day in1961, Kennedy said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
While Obama’s speech was delivered well and met with polite applause from the cadets and others at West Point, its real message was that America will not shoulder the burdens of an open-ended war by itself or with the desultory support of NATO allies.
I thought, too, of the long Cold War America fought with the former Soviet Union.
For a little while, Afghanistan will be Obama’s war. And then we will leave.
We have some big problems here at home, a recession and joblessness, but we have always been able to work our way out of these cyclical financial difficulties.
This time it’s different. We have a White House and Congress hell-bent on initiatives such as Obamacare and Cap-and-Trade that will utterly destroy the economy and the nation. And they know it. And they don’t care.
One wonders, at this time and place, which is the worse enemy?