I want to add a few things to Richard Just’s excellent comment on Obama’s speech. I think there are two reasons why Obama soft-pedaled nation-building and human rights (not even mentioning the fundamental rights of women that the Taliban deny). The first, which Richard notes implicitly, is a desire to appease Americans who think the administration is neglecting the U.S. in favor of Afghanistan. The second, which is more important, is that the administration has scaled back significantly its expectations in Afghanistan. Its objective of “breaking the momentum” rather than defeating the Taliban suggests to me that it has resigned itself to a messy, pre-modern pre-democratic, partially-Tribal, partially Islamic fundamentalist Afghanistan in which, nonetheless, al Qaeda does not have a refuge. That is really its objective and it is not consistent with a policy that actively promotes democracy and human rights. It may also be the best that the U.S. can hope for. Prior efforts at “nation-building” in underdeveloped countries ravaged by civil war, e.g. South Vietnam, have not proven successful. But my point in my own previous post about echoes of Vietnam is that without some kind of nation building in the next two years, Obama will not have created the conditions for America to begin withdrawing his troops. Instead, the U.S. will find itself (as it did in Vietnam) back in Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.
More on Obama's Afghanistan Speech:
"Obama's Inconsistencies," by Richard Just
"A Lonely Kind Of Courage," by Elizabeth D. Samet
"Obama's Other Front: The Hill," by Lydia DePillis and Jesse Zwick
"The Day After: A Hollow Withdrawal Pledge Comes Into Focus," by Michael Crowley
"Sorry, But I Hear Echoes of Vietnam," by John B. Judis