Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for president because grassroots progressives thought he was marginally more antiwar than Hillary Clinton.
After securing the nomination, Obama was elected president.
Upon securing the Oval Office, he promptly abandoned any pretense of being opposed to military misadventures abroad, appointed Clinton as his Secretary of State, kept the Bush-Cheney regime’s team at the Department of Defense, surged more troops into Afghanistan and steered US forces into a new fight with Libya.
Now, the president is proposing to remove some of the troops he sent to Afghanistan—about 10,000 (roughly 7 percent of the occupation force) by the end of the year.
The US force on the ground in Afghanistan will still be more substantial than the force that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney put on the ground there.
Indeed, even by the most optimistic timeline proposed by Obama, the US occupation force will at the end of Obama’s first term be much larger than the US force that was there when Bush and Cheney left the White House in 2009.
Under Obama, the war will continue for years to come.
Under Obama, another billion dollars will continue to be spent every week to ten days on an occupation that the American people and the people of Afghanistan want ended.
And Obama’s best-case scenario does not have the United States out of Afghanistan by 2012, 2013 or 2014. While the president imagines that combat forces may be largely out of the Afghanistan by then, he does not guarantee that. And he suggests that a dramatic US presence will remain beyond 2014—and almost certainly beyond what the president hopes will be his second term.
That’s too slow a timeline, according to everyone from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman—who issued some of the first negative reviews of Obama’s vague and disappointing speech. Huntsman voiced what is almost assuredly the most popular political sentiment of the moment, calling for “a safe but rapid withdrawal.”
Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin, D-Michigan, shared the view, suggesting that Obama had not gone far enough and calling for an “accelerated withdrawal” of US forces. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, summed up sentiments among Congressional Democrats when he said, “I appreciate the president’s announcement, but I believe that the withdrawal should occur at significantly faster speed and greater scope.” Key Republicans in Congress, especially in the House, were similarly unimpressed with the president’s plan.
Congress was not impressed by Obama’s speech.
But what of the American people? Is there any reason to believe they will be impressed that Obama has added another footnote to the story of what has become his war?
Will Obama gain any political advantage as a result of his much-ballyhooed announcement?
“Removing a few brigades this year, then several more next year, still leaves more than double the US troops in Afghanistan than when President Obama took office. There’s no military solution in Afghanistan. It’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and focus on the political solution, which is the only way this costly war will end,” explained Paul Kawika Martin, the political and policy director of Peace Action, who bluntly—and correctly—suggested that voters will be “disappointed” with Obama’s tepid timeline.