Friday, January 30, 2015

Mixed Messages

Obama's Afghanistan message is a mixed one that leaves us with more questions than answers.

Mixed Messages

OK, as I understand it, "we are meeting our goals" in Afghanistan. We have "reason to believe that progress can be made." We have "put al Qaeda on a path of defeat." And "the tide of war is receding."

But.

"There will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan," and while "we don't have a single soldier on the ground in Libya" we'll be in for $1.1 billion there come September, this, you'll recall, in a country where we were told our involvement would last days, not weeks.

Oh, and "the surge" in Afghanistan ordered in December 2009 has worked so we're bringing home the 33,000 troops sent at that time, leaving 68,000 troops in place until we can bring them home "at a steady pace" sometime around 2014.

Nevermind, I guess, that the 68,000 is double the amount in Afghanistan when the Nobel Peace Prize winner took office.

Nevermind, I guess, we've spent $1 trillion or so on wars in other countries while our country, its cities, states, schools, infrastructure and overall economy suffer for lack of government investments.

Still, "Now we must invest in America's greatest resource -- our people" because "it is time to focus on nation-building here at home."

First, it was ALWAYS time to focus "here at home." Second, "now," I guess that means sometime in the years ahead "at a steady pace."

In the President's 14-minute national address from the White House last night, the messages were about as mixed as they can get.

Speaking from the East Room where he announced the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 1 (and mentioning bin Laden's demise 4 times in 14 minutes), the President sought to soothe national angst over ongoing, seemingly endless wars that, so far, have taken 6,000 American lives and unimaginable amounts of money.

But here's the thing. During a background briefing by senior administration officials yesterday afternoon before the speech, we were told that "we haven't seen a terrorist threat emanate from Afghanistan for 7 or 8 years."

So the question, or one of them, becomes why did we order a "surge" in `09 and why aren't we now more fully winding down our presence there?

The answer offered is because there remains a "threat" that since Afghanistan was "the launching pad" of 9/11 nearly a decade ago, it COULD again become a training ground and/or haven for terrorists.

So could virtually any other country in that forsaken part of our planet.

Our misplaced "missions" in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are magnets drawing attention and resources from our own domestic needs. There's no reason to think that draw ends soon. There are no good answers as to why it continues. There are only mixed messages.

 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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