It’s enough to make you weep.
During Obama’s announcement that soon he’ll be making an announcement about the number of troops in Afghanistan, he said:
After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job.
It’s got the usual (and apparently irresistible) element of Bush-bashing, as well as the usual avoidance of any mention of so archaic a notion as victory. But that phrase—”finish the job”—rang a small and distant bell with me. It echoed a famous Churchill speech during the time when America had not yet entered WWII, but Britain was fully occupied in fighting it.
So I listened to an excerpt from Churchill’s speech. The differences are profound, as one might expect, and I’m not just talking about the famous Churchillian voice. The British PM is talking about resolve, as he often did, and conveying it most effectively (not to mention poetically). This is exactly and precisely what Obama lacks, although it’s not the only thing he lacks.
Here it is:
Give us the tools and we will finish the job said Churchill, speaking to the US about war supplies. Note that he talks of “we,” the British nation, rather than himself. Note, also, that he is asking for the tools, but Obama is the one who’s been denying his own generals the tools (in terms of troops and the supplies that go with them) these long—and supposedly very important—months in Afghanistan, while he decided which job it was that he actually wanted to finish.
From Roosevelt’s letter on the subject, a quote from a Longfellow poem:
Sail on, Oh Ship of State!
Sail on, Oh Union strong and great.
Humanity with all its fears
With all the hope of future years
Is hanging breathless on thy fate.
[NOTE: In a related item, I note that in the ten short months (they just seem long) he's been in office, President Obama has managed to damage relations with Great Britain to a greater extent than any previous president since George Washington and James Madison were at war with it. Now the British defense secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has publicly criticized Obama's indecision on Afghanistan, saying that it has affected the British public's support for the mission.]