Thursday, December 3, 2009


Obama's speech at West Point, and the politically calculated half-measures it proposed, are the occasion for the latest spot-on post by "Doctor Zero" over at Hot Air. Counterinsurgency is a Long Game, a dogged demonstration of dedication and integrity which is meant to woo a population from the camp of our foes to the circle of our friends. The President's dismal delineation of time-tables and "exit strategies" (Gods! How I have come to detest that phrase) signals the very antithesis of COIN's spirit. His short-changing of troop levels and characteristically naive reliance on NATO commitments (oxymoron spoken here) to make up the difference is nothing short of a declaration that victory (perish the thought that he should ever utter that word) is a long shot against which to hedge, rather than an unconditional prerequisite for joining the fight.

But, as Doctor Zero articulates with the usual blistering clarity, such is the monotonic tenor of the Obama presidency:
Every moment of the “historic” Obama presidency has been wrapped in the rhetoric of failure and decline. A nation slipping into endless debt, to buy off the social concerns of the moment, cannot help but feel helpless and doomed… because it wouldn’t be so quick to mortgage a future it believed in. To accept the leadership of Barack Obama, either in Afghanistan or at home, is to accept that triumph is a fantasy, and achievement is a relic of the past, so the only rational course is carefully managed decline.
 Indeed. Whether it is the ham-handed intrusion of government into the auto industry and banking system, or  the on-going attempt to effect a fateful phagocytosis of the health insurance market, this administration has broadcast with unerring consistency the message that the proper management of our lives and resources are so far beyond the ken of the "average" citizen that nothing short of Central Planning stands the faintest chance of achieving the goals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Doctor Zero quite rightly makes the analogy between the confidence and vigor of a civilian population, and the morale of a military force. Per Obama, both are in need of careful control from the top, so as to achieve the ultimate goal of an orderly and placid mediocrity. Try as I have (and I have tried mightily!), I can find no evidence that he believes this Nation can or should aspire to anything higher.

Needless to say, I disagree. And, as should be abundantly clear by now, I have officially abandoned the effort to give this administration the benefit of the doubt.

A properly resourced and inspired COIN force can achieve wonders, once it has shown itself willing and able to accept elevated risk, and to "walk the walk" for the sake of a host nation's population. An under-resourced and ambivalent COIN force sends the message to would-be insurgents and collaborators that they had best keep their powder dry, against the day of their inevitable abandonment.

So it goes with a people and their president. Tell us, in a host of ways, that we are ineffectual and in need of paternalistic control, and you offer us a choice: bow low before the beneficent State and accept its putative boons, or be moved by the affront to reclaim our dignity and repudiate your condescension. This American "insurgency" has taken the form of Tea Parties, raucous town hall meetings, and a rapidly growing grass-roots movement, self-organizing around the reclaiming of the muscular and pragmatic optimism which lies at the heart of the American consciousness. I live in hope (the real kind) that this insurgency will triumph at home....and in dread that its dark counterpart will do the same in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.


Mr.Hengist said...

I found myself initially agreeing with this blogpost, but on reflection I think I have some issues with it. It should be noted that I neither saw POTUS Obama's address on Afghanistan nor did I read the transcript; I've been relying on commentary to give me the gist of it. For me, the bottom line was his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, and it seem to be there - not quite what General McChrystal asked for, and only until 2011, after which we'll begin our withdrawal. It's a recipe for disastrous failure . If our government gives our military less than they ask for to achieve victory then we can expect something less than victory, and announcing a withdrawal date is an extremely foolish political move; Liberals have refused to understand that this lack of a commitment to victory is a devastating message of weakness which will undermine our support from our allies, both indigenous and abroad, and will only serve to strengthen the resolve and recruitment of our enemies. POTUS Obama was trying to split the difference between domestic political interests; he was acting as a politician in the role of the Commander in Chief. It's a losing strategy for the war effort, but probably his real concern was instead on his domestic political support. All the election-talk from him about the necessity of giving all the necessary resources to this war was, as we can now see, a lie. Proper credit goes to Jim Geraghty of the NRO Campaign Spot: "All Barack Obama Statements Come With an Expiration Date. All of Them."

As for the destructive domestic agenda of the Democrats, I've seen little evidence that they govern from the supposition that the decline of our American fortunes are inevitable so we may as well mortgage our future, or that only the Federal Government can manage our lives and resources. Instead, what I hear from them is that we are victims of the greed (i.e., profiting, or as they see it, theft) and fraud of the private sector (i.e., capitalists), and that the government can and must step in to manage things and redistribute wealth and resources "fairly".

Further, I do see POTUS Obama, Democrats, and Liberals aspiring to a greater America, it's just that, well, we're on very different wavelengths. So, for example, they want to eliminate racism and disparities of wealth; they want the government to provide "free" healthcare to everyone. They have goals they hope to achieve, but they're not my goals. I understand the argument from the Right about how their goals can seem paternalistic, but I don't hear it in their arguments.

Noocyte said...

It's not like I imagine Obama and other denizens of the Left sitting there, consciously saying "Those poor, witless schlubs don't have a prayer of succeeding on their own, so let's seize their property and liberty and bring about a controlled crash landing of this doomed American enterprise." It's not the text that I'm referring to, but the subtext. It's the assumption that a "great" America is one in which the people's needs are attended to by a benevolent parent State, so that the people will be free to pursue loftier goals than mere survival, liberated from the exploitation of greedy, racist, sexist power-mongers. The stated, conscious intent may be beneficent...indeed, I have not seen evidence to the contrary, myself (well, not much anyway). The implicit, unstated semiotics of Progressive policies, I submit, are not. I do not posit that my Liberal friends hold malign views of this Nation, either. I am simply of the excruciatingly-considered opinion that those views, if allowed to run, unchecked, through the Great Simulator of History, will yield results which will be grievously deleterious to the health of this country and society.

But when I look at the emergent phenomena which arise from a vast number of well-intentioned policy choices (like the dots in a Seurat painting), the picture which comes into focus for me is very much one of a disturbing lack of faith in the free enterprise system as a whole, and in the capacity of citizens therein to steer their own courses without governmental oversight. And that is a very bleak picture, which does not lend itself to the can-do spirit and rugged inventiveness which has typified this Nation at those ascendant moments in its history.

I suspect even Jimmy Carter (puh-TOO-ee) felt like his approach to the Nation and the world was best-suited to bring about the collective good. It's the part about the "collective" as subject which so infuriates me (as opposed to treating the Collective as object, which is how a free-market, Federalist approach treats it: as the result of individual actions, rather than the cause of any given individual's fortunes).

You're right to point out this important distinction.