If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush's wars and coming home. For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller. Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon. . .
Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:
"(A)s commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest ..."
"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake ..."
"For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility, what's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world."
After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? "I ... will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months -- then they will start home. Let us put that in perspective.
During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011. . . The contradictions in Obama's speech are jarring.
He says the new U.S. troops are to "train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans." Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance? . .
Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev's crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez . . .In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.
What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.