Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rhetoric and War

If we have no interest in winning wars we should not enter them. I listened intently as Obama announced the sending out of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. I have no doubt that our President may be one of the most gifted orators to ever take office. However, during war time and a recession, oratory can ring hollow when it is not backed by true resolve and decisive action and leadership. Great speeches however, are remembered for the events which surrounded them. Reagan is not remembered because of his oratory or because of his charismatic personality and charming way with words. He is remembered for his oratory and policy making because he believed in it and what he was saying. He was not making good speeches to tactfully navigate politics or to pacify his base. His oration reflected his action which in turn proceeded from his very being and source.

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The strength of personality and true believing-confident leadership can precipitate significant change in the world, not oratory. I am concerned that we lack such leadership today. When I heard Obama’s speech to West Point, I do not hear a man speaking from his base – from an authentic self. I see a highly skilled organizer and speaker – just speaking. I don’t get an impression of an authentic person who speaks from his core – who speaks because he believes. Rather he speaks because he calculates, or more generously because he thinks. I see a politician and negotiator – but above all a speaker. I don’t get the sense of an authentic self, rather a chameleon, adapting to his surrounding.  I hope I am wrong in my analysis here.

Throughout the whole speech to West Point I heard words such as “accelerated deployment” nearly used synonymously with “exit strategy” and “withdrawal.” Not one word of “winning” or “victory” or “destroying the enemy.” If we want to succeed with routing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan our rhetoric ought to at least match their own rhetoric. They speak quite plainly about disrupting the work in Afghanistan and killing the infidel. Our rhetoric and speech ought to scare them and convince them that we our set our victory more than they are. There is no hope of winning of the enemy by “winning hearts and minds.” They are quite set on their goals, if only we could be set on ours. If the goal is to preserve the reforms and progress in Afghanistan and to defeat the Taliban than we ought to do that.

Truly winning in Afghanistan would mean tearing into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps with brutal force and violence. In matters of war, it is most humane to cut out the enemy like a cancer, lest is spread and multiply. It is not humane to continue in a war if our leaders are not set on winning, with definitive objectives. Furthermore, politicians and the American public are not equipped to stomach the wretchedness of war. If politicians and the public were as heavily involved in World War II as they are today in the politicizing of war, we would have had to leave the Pacific Islands and France soon after our entrance. Only military men and woman have taken the vow to destroy all enemies foreign and domestic, not the American public. We all ought to feel lucky and blessed that others take that oath, so that we do not have to.

I am very much baffled by those calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. The retributive killings from the reemergence of the Taliban would be completely horrifying. If we made the promise to stand by Afghans and to route out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda we ought to do so. Our country has already forgotten the cost of pulling out of Vietnam and breaking a promise – the Khmer Rouge enacted a genocidal policy that lead to the killings of more than 1.5 million innocents throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It would profoundly irresponsible to set up innocent Afghans for the same horrifying nightmare, because we all like to fashion ourselves as orators and politicians.

1 comment:

  1. The master of the telprompter strikes yet again! The sooner this man comes to the realization that the campaign is over and it's time for action, the better for our country!


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