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TNR Reacts to Obama's Speech

Last night, President Obama announced his new Afghanistan strategy, including his to start withdrawing U.S. troops by 2011. Don't miss the wide range of reactions and analysis today at TNR:

Richard Just likes the speech, but found contradictions in Obama's embrace of both isolationism and nation-building. "What, exactly, is Barack Obama's overarching worldview when it comes to foreign policy? For a long time, I've felt I didn't really know. After last night's speech, I suspect Obama doesn't really know either."

John B. Judis responds to Just’s criticism, and suggests that Obama’s may have sounded incoherent since he had to scale back U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. “Its [the administration’s] 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.”

Judis also notes that, despite Obama's claims to the contrary, he finds ominous parallels with the U.S. experience in Vietnam. “Of course, there are differences--and Obama tried to cite them in his speech--but the similarities are disturbing.”

Michael Crowley reminds us that Obama’s vision for Afghanistan is not entirely new, and that this shows he has actually been consistent in his policy. “Obama’s reiteration of his main talking points from March indicates that he believed what he was saying at the time and simply hasn’t seen anything dramatic enough in the past six months to change his mind.”

Crowley also focuses on how Obama and his national security team are playing up the plan's exit strategy. “Barack Obama's aides can pat themselves on the back today; they have succeeded in spinning the president's new troop surge as a simultaneous plan for leaving Afghanistan.”

Steven Metz explores the similarities and differences between Obama’s "escalation" and Bush’s "surge." “Obama, by contrast, tried to mollify the public’s concerns by identifying a clear point at which he intends to begin scaling down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan--the summer of 2011.”

Lydia DePillis and Jesse Zwick report on Obama’s "other front," the U.S. Congress, and the opposition he is likely to face from six influential congressman. “Obama’s team will have its hands full cobbling together enough people from both sides of the aisle to get what it wants.”

Elizabeth A. Samet, a professor of English at the U.S. Military Academy, wrote a beautiful piece about the scene within Eisenhower Hall last night. “Oratory, presidential or otherwise, occupies a peculiar place in military culture, where action is king. Cadets are accustomed to being exhorted, and they become adept at responding with an automatic enthusiasm. But they are even better, when given the chance (as I think they were last night), at thinking seriously about responsibility.” We strongly recommend that you read the whole thing.