Obama’s West Point speech: Bullet-proof vest or high statesmanship?

The president strides into socio-political terrain as treacherous as Afghanistan itself.

The president strides into socio-political terrain as treacherous as Afghanistan itself

President Obama displayed both his wonkishness and his eloquence in his speech at West Point last night. “America and our allies,” he told the cadet corps (the addition of “allies” was significant), were “compelled” to fight a war in Afghanistan. First, because it was forced on us by the terrible events of 9/11/01, and second, because al Qaeda still threatens the U.S. and other Western democracies with terrorist acts, including the use of nuclear weapons if these fanatics ever contrive to lay hands on them.

The American troops already on the scene are insufficient. “The status quo is not sustainable,” declared the president. So he is “compelled” to act.

Even so, Obama did not go off half-cocked. “As your commander-in-chief,” he assured the cadets, “I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service.” Accordingly, he ordered the troop buildup in Afghanistan only after a careful review that allowed him to “ask the hard questions, and to explore all of the different options along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and with our key partners.”

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