San Antonio, TX – The world’s most famous Tele-prompter reader has lost his audience. For two years, Mr. Obama had the American electorate and world leaders eating out of the palm of his hand. At virtually every U.S. and overseas venue, he was welcomed by huge cheering throngs. His oratory was described as “magnetic,” “eloquent” and “spellbinding.” Just 9 months in office, his “accomplishments” – were deemed worthy of a Nobel Prize. Not any more.
After being chastened by the voters in one of the greatest electoral reversals in American history, the president flew away on the most expensive foreign junket ever taken by an American Head of State. But his appearances this week in India, Indonesia and Korea have made it vividly clear to all that Mr. Obama is incapable of shaping events.
Though he still panders to every audience, his obsequious bows to foreign potentates and apologies for America’s misdeeds no longer hold the allure and cachet they carried just months ago. In Delhi, he reiterated his utopian plea for a world without nuclear weapons and spoke of supporting India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – without mentioning that both India and Pakistan hide their atomic arsenals from UN arms inspectors.
He paid homage to Gandhi, danced with schoolchildren in Indonesia and went to the G-20 summit in Seoul, where he continued to whine about trade imbalances and currency manipulation while defending further devaluation of the American dollar. Along the way, he missed yet another opportunity to define our enemy as radical Islam and ignored American troops in harm’s way by treating Iraq and Afghanistan like flyover country.
The president’s rhetorical flourishes and quests for applause lines on this trip provide striking examples of his chaotic, uncertain leadership at home and abroad. While he was reiterating his campaign pledge to bring all American troops home from Iraq, Robert Gates, his Defense Secretary was suggesting the newly formed Iraqi government may want U.S. troops to stay beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal.
But on Afghanistan, Mr. Obama may have begun to backtrack. This week he said, “While I have made it clear that American forces will begin the transition to Afghan responsibility next summer, I have also made it clear that America’s commitment to the Afghan people will endure. The United States will not abandon the people of Afghanistan – or the region – to the violent extremists who threaten us all.”
He says he has “made it clear”, but he hasn’t. Ever since he announced the “surge” in Afghanistan a year ago, he has been talking about commencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops next July. Now he says we will “begin the transition to Afghan responsibility this summer.” Does that mean we’re going to stay long enough to finish the job – to actually win in Afghanistan? No one seems to know.
While Mr. Obama was enjoying state dinners across Asia, Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and Kirsten Gillibrand were in Afghanistan for a first-hand look at what’s happening on the ground. After meetings in Kabul with General David Petraeus and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Senator McCain told reporters, “It was wrong to set the date of July” for withdrawing U.S. troops. “It sent out the wrong message and it created a problem.”
The former prisoner of war is right – but he understates the case. The original Obama promise to start bringing American troops home from the shadows of the Hindu Kush – a pledge made to placate the anti-military base of his party – created a whole host of new problems. It told the Taliban they can wait us out. It told the Iranians and elements in Pakistan to increase efforts to control the outcome. It told our allies to start packing their bags for home. And it told Hamid Karzai – and every corrupt government official in Afghanistan – to steal as much as they can while the gringos are still writing checks.
Perhaps worst of all – Mr. Obama’s “withdrawal promise” told the American people we weren’t there to win – that the sacrifice of their sons and daughters was futile. That’s not how Christine and Terry, the parents of Marine LCpl Terry E. Honeycutt, Jr. of Waldorf, Maryland, feel – nor should they. Their son died October 27, after being wounded by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province. Anti-military protesters intended to disrupt their son’s funeral – until the Patriot Guard Riders were alerted to the protesters’ plan. Instead of having to endure a disgusting graveside demonstration, scores of God fearing veterans will honor a fallen Marine and his grieving family.
Mr. Obama owes all who are fighting this war – especially Gold Star families like the Honeycutts – a clear and unambiguous declaration that we are in Afghanistan to win. The time for equivocation has long since passed. In the case of his “withdrawal date”– he must do some serious backtracking.