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Obama Iraq Speech Becomes State of the Union II

Posted on September 1 2010 2:00 pm
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You’ve seen my take on the good things about Obama’s speech, now let’s review the not-so-nice parts. The biggest thing to me was how it became the State of the Union #2. He suddenly starts talking about his economic agenda and how America will endure its domestic struggles.

He talks about how he’s fulfilling his pledge as a candidate while making no mention of how the surge enabled him to responsibly fulfill that pledge. He may also have made that comment because he needs to remind his base that he didn’t waver on the issue as they rage at how similar to President Bush he’s been on security issues. And then he started talking about the war in Afghanistan.

My biggest issue besides how it started to sound like a stump speech is that there was just so much lost opportunity. Anti-American media outlets framed the invasion of Iraq as a war against Islam and/or a way to steal the Arabs’ oil. The Bush administration did not want a timeline for withdrawal at all, but submitted to the al-Maliki government’s will in 2008 out of respect for them as a sovereign, democratic country. And contrary to all those who made it seem like we had ill intentions, we are leaving just as we said we would. We didn’t take their oil. We didn’t install a puppet government. This was an opportunity to rebut these lines of attack on America’s integrity.

Second, President Obama did passionately thank the troops for their service, but he could have flattered them and the Iraqis by boasting of what we’ve accomplished. You don’t need to support the decision to invade to marvel at Iraq’s progress. Rather than mentioning the high turnout during the last election, the results could have been praised. Allawi, the top-vote getter, is a secular Shiite who built a coalition with Sunnis. The second-place finisher, al-Maliki, is also not an Iranian-style theocrat and he also reached out to the Sunnis. Obama did mention some of the accomplishments of the Iraqis and Coalition forces, but I don’t feel the audience came away with their heads held high about what we’re leaving behind (and by leaving, I mean still having 49,000 “advisors”).

The point here is that President Obama could have framed the resolution of the conflict in such a way that we not only appreciate our soldiers for willingly serving—but are also awestruck at what they’ve made happen and confident that Iraq will continue to move forward. And it would have benefited him politically as the public will naturally give him credit for safely carrying out the drawdown.

Finally, President Obama continued his administration’s campaign of transforming the War on Terror to a War on Al-Qaeda. In discussing the war in Afghanistan, he repeatedly talked about defeating Al-Qaeda, not the Taliban or forces of radical Islam. If we redefine the War on Terror as solely being about Al-Qaeda, then we’ve reduced the campaign to the lowest common denominator.

I don’t want to stamp out just Al-Qaeda. I want to stamp out their affiliates, their collaborators, and the entire congregation of radical Islam.

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