WASHINGTON -- The commander in chief's Dec. 1 lecture at the U.S. Military Academy has to go down in history as one of the strangest presentations ever offered by a wartime president. The robotically delivered address is defended by administration officials as the culmination of a carefully thought-out "strategy review," in which Mr. Obama proffered the "rationale" for deploying additional troops and explained "The Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Unfortunately, it failed to do any of this.
Though he was standing before West Point's Corps of Cadets, the president's remarks were devoid of strategic vision, lacking any definition of victory and empty of the rhetoric elected leaders employ to rally democratic people to a cause requiring the sacrifice of blood and treasure. The speech did, however, provide another Obama "first." Giving the enemy a timetable for withdrawing American troops while committing additional combat forces to a war zone is unprecedented. No commander in chief has done such a thing before -- because it makes no sense from a political or military perspective.
To his credit, Mr. Obama said, "I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan." These additional troops, trainers and mobility assets are needed desperately. But he offered no rationale for how he arrived at a number that is 25 percent less than what his hand-picked commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, requested. Then he devoted five additional passages to defending his statement that "after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."
Since Tuesday, Mr. Obama has stopped talking about the war in Afghanistan and moved on to "creating jobs," a topic he raised four times in his West Point speech. He left Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Adm. Mike Mullen, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a host of nameless "administration spokesmen" to explain the extraordinary announcement that we will "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."
The contortions required to support this statement were particularly evident in congressional testimony this week, particularly for Gates. When the defense secretary appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said to him, "You said in April 2007, with regard to Iraq, 'I've been pretty clear that I think the enactment of specific deadlines would be a bad mistake.'"
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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