Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The Germans' Take on Afghan Speech
Now that we've established that President Obama's Afghanistan troop surge speech was a bomb here in the States, get a look at what the Gemans had to say about the great orator and his war rhetoric.
From Hot Air:
Der Speigel: Where was the Obama magic?
"The German magazine Der Speigel reacted with dismay to Barack Obama’s speech last night — and not because they miss George Bush, as Gabor Steingart’s blast makes clear. In fact, Steingart wonders why Obama decided to marry his impulse to withdraw from war with Bush’s rhetoric to fight. The result, Steingart says, was the worst of both worlds:
'One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.
An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan — and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war — and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.
For each troop movement, Obama had a number to match. US strength in Afghanistan will be tripled relative to the Bush years, a fact that is sure to impress hawks in America. But just 18 months later, just in time for Obama’s re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.
The speech continued in that vein. It was as though Obama had taken one of his old campaign speeches and merged it with a text from the library of ex-President George W. Bush. Extremists kill in the name of Islam, he said, before adding that it is one of the 'world’s great religions.' He promised that responsibility for the country’s security would soon be transferred to the government of President Hamid Karzai — a government which he said was 'corrupt.' The Taliban is dangerous and growing stronger. But 'America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars,' he added.
It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.'
It was the speech, in short, of a ditherer and a vacillator. Steingart thinks it goes deeper than that. He accuses Obama of deliberately scheduling the withdrawal for the summer before his re-election year in order to eat his cake and have it, too. Obama gets to have fought a war to build credibility with hawks, and then retreat to build credibility with doves.
The net result is that Obama has weakened himself. For those who see the speech in Steingart’s terms, they will see Obama not as a transformative figure of Hope and Change but as a weak politician who tries to play both sides of the street, heedless of the consequences. In Der Spiegel’s perspective, Obama is extending a war he doesn’t want to win at the cost of human lives mainly for his own political purposes. From the perspective of the hawks, Obama is seen as curtailing an effort that could win — mainly for his own political purposes. In either case, one cannot argue this many contradictions and still talk about Hope and Change or transforming the politics of a nation.
Steingart concludes by arguing that Obama has made opponents more or less irrelevant, since he seems to be opposing himself. 'Obama’s magic no longer works,' he says. That may be because Obama finally had to tell people something they didn’t want to hear, especially in Europe."
How the mighty fall!