He said, in 4,579 words what probably could have been said in 500 or so. The 40 minutes were mostly used to justify to the left his decision to send 30,000 additional troops to A’stan.
On the plus side, he made a decision. It took much longer than it should have, and, as I’ll cover further on, it isn’t a great decision by any means, but he did finally decide to do something.
Using the cadets at West Point as a backdrop (they seemed as enthusiastic about the plan as I am) he told the military that the reason this decision had taken so long is he owed them a clear mission before he sent them into battle. Yet reading through his speech, I’m still not clear as to what the military’s mission is.
Certainly at the level of Commander in Chief, you speak in much broader terms when describing a mission, than would a platoon leader getting ready to attack an insurgent stronghold. But there’s a point where ‘broad’ is sort of meaningless. The three broad missions I heard enunciated that I assume comprise the Obama strategy are:
1. Deny al Qaeda safe haven.
2. Reverse the momentum of the Taliban
3. Safeguard the Afghan people
The first is counter-terrorism. Joe Biden’s ninja and drone strategy. It is, I assume, the reason Obama decided to commit fewer troops than Gen. McChrystal asked for. The second and third are elements of counter-insurgency.