September 22nd, 2010

Woodward on Obama and Afghanistan: hello we must be going

Woodward’s book on Obama’s Afghanistan policy-making process reveals that Obama didn’t speak of victory there:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint.

Is there anyone on earth who is surprised by this? If so, they shouldn’t be.

Nor by this:

Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

Of course not. Let’s sacrifice the war effort by letting the enemy know when we’re leaving, in order to preserve your political support with your base.

[NOTE: For an explanation of the title of this post see this]:

35 Responses to “Woodward on Obama and Afghanistan: hello we must be going”

  1. Lee Merrick Says:

    Are we surprised at any of this…?

  2. Amy Says:

    Not surprised by that. But this gave me pause:

    Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

    Absorbed it? Stronger?

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Amy: of course we’re stronger. After all, we elected Obama, didn’t we?

  4. Amy Says:

    He is so disconnected from anything I recognize as reality.

    I’m wondering about this whole book. Why did Obama let Woodward have this kind of access? How did he think it would benefit him?

    Also weird: Obama comes across as believing he can end a war because he wills it. Like it’s one-sided and a choice. And he doesn’t seem to make the connection between Afghanistan and the big picture fight against global jihadist terrorism – which of course we did not choose and maybe cannot end… except by losing.

  5. Amy Says:

    James Taranto today:

    As Winston Churchill told the House of Commons on May 13, 1940 [NOTE TO SELF: CHECK THIS QUOTE]:

    You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one gerundive phrase with a subordinate clause: It is getting to the point where we can reduce our footprint, getting to the point where we can reduce our footprint at all costs, getting to the point where we can reduce our footprint in spite of all terror (which we can absorb anyway), however long and hard the road may be; for without getting to the point where we can reduce our footprint, there is no wiggle room.

  6. Mike Mc. Says:

    Where did that kind of brilliant clever and truly funny humor go?

    Obama can have the country if we can have that back.

  7. nyomythus Says:

    To bad we couldn’t get a free Iran and India to play a larger role in Afghanistan.

  8. kaba Says:

    I am a Vietnam Veteran. As I watched the last helicopters leave the roof of the embassy in Saigon I cried like a baby.

    Today I still mourn.

    I mourn for all of the money wasted and destruction wrought.

    I mourn for a people I’d grown to love who had lost their nation and their freedoms.

    I mourn for the children, now grown, who never had a chance to know their fathers.

    I mourn for the mothers, fathers, and young wives who experienced a loss and emptiness that is beyond description.

    I mourn for the service lost and needless sacrifice.

    I mourn for the lives lost and lives ruined.

    We cannot do this to the young men and women who are serving today. We owe them our best and the memory of a victory well won.

  9. Gringo Says:


    To bad we couldn’t get a free Iran and India to play a larger role in Afghanistan.

    Before that occurs, there needs to be a “free Iran.” Last I checked, Iran was a holocaust-denying Islamofascist theocracy set on getting the bomb and using it on Israel.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    “The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition of socialism.”- Karl Marx

  11. expat Says:

    Don’t forget the reports of Iranian support for the Taliban. And as for a bigger role for India, I wonder how that would go down with the ISI. I’m beginning to think nyomythus is an Obama advisor.

  12. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Amy, my family is one of the ones who had no choice other than to “absorb” the loss of a loved one on September 11, and let me tell you, that phrase gave me pause, too. “Absorb”? It sounds as if he thinks my cousin and the others who died that day were nothing more than blobs to be soaked up by some giant sponge and forgotten as soon as the mess they made by dying was cleaned up. That man has said a great many tone-deaf things since ascending to the Presidency, but this one, to my admittedly nowhere-near-objective mind, outdoes all the rest. Has it occurred to him yet that as President, he ought at least to try to pretend that he cares?

    As for the word “stronger,” if he really thinks that we are stronger now as a result of our response to September 11 (and he can’t possibly have meant we are stronger simply because we were attacked — he must have been referring to our response) he has a lot of ‘splainin to do about all the Bush-bashing he has been doing ever since the attacks.

  13. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Well said, brother. An old Vietnam Vet myself, I could not have said it any better.

    War is hell. If we put our warriors through hell, there must be a damn good reason (How about victory?) or it is all, as you point out, an exercise in ruinous evil.

    A week before the elections in 2008, I predicted that Obama would surge into Afghanistan for a year, then declare victory and come home. My timing was a bit off, but reading of the man wasn’t.

  14. kaba Says:

    Thanks for your service and welcome home my friend.

    We owe these young people one of two outcomes. Let’s either bring them all home as soon as possible starting this minute. Or let us commit ourselves to victory.

    To ask them to sacrifice further without hope of victory for domestic political reasons is about as immoral as it can be.

    We have often heard about the lessons of Vietnam. The first lesson we should have learned is to not sacrifice the blood of our young for political expediency.

  15. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Actually the whole truth is worse. I linked an interview in an earlier post with a White House insider who recently quit his position. He describes an Obama far more interested in sports than the presidency; a thin skinned, out of touch, pretty much a hopeless neurotic, who stabbed his fellow Democrats in the back with Obamacare, a bill he never started to read.

    It is interesting how many of the deductions here at Neocon have been verified by these articles. One thing we did get wrong is that we assumed there was a method to his madness. I got the impression there is not. He is winging the whole Presidency. Obama is more of a President impersonator than President.

  16. Amy Says:

    Mrs Whatsit, I am sorry about your cousin, and still righteously pissed off about Sept 11.

    My husband is a captain for American Airlines out of Boston and knew all the American pilots and most of the flight attendants who were murdered that day. At a memorial service for the copilot of Flight 11, a large church one town away from ours was a sea of American Airlines uniforms.

    Ripples from that day are still spreading… though that suggests something watery that could be absorbed with a sponge. More like: shattering, fragmenting, splintering outward from that day. Two towns over, the 23-year-old Army son of a fellow American pilot was killed in Afghanistan last month. He was 14 years old on 9-11.

    We are “absorbing” 9-11 with young men and women who were still children on that day. And “absorbing” in the airports with insulting “safety theater” that treats us all, including flight crews, as though we are potential suicide bombers. And “absorbing” among airline employees who lost their jobs or took huge pay cuts and lost benefits after the decrease in air traffic after 9-11.

    My husband captained what I believe was the first commercial airline flight in the air in the US when airspace opened a few mornings after Sept 11, repositioning an empty A300 from Boston to NYC. He called me after landing.

    “What is it like?” I asked.

    “A smoking hole,” was all he would say.

  17. Cappy Says:

    We would have been better off had Obama been absorbed on 9/11.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    kaba: that is the strange thing about Obama. In his effort to avoid a Vietnam, he creates something similar by signaling his intention to abandon the country. But I suspect Obama only has a smattering of knowledge of the history of Vietnam, anyway, and that what he knows is probably straight from the Book of the Left.

  19. kaba Says:

    neo, I think you’ve probably read Obama correctly.

    How do we tell these parents that we want their son or daughter to be the last that dies for a losing cause?

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    kaba: I was thinking of that Kerry quote, too.

    Very ironic, history is.

  21. rickl Says:

    Crushing the morale of the U.S. military is a feature, not a bug, to the Left. Once again, I don’t think anything Obama and his comrades are doing is by accident.

    I hope a lot of these young veterans decide to run for office in the coming years.

    Thanks for your service, kaba and J.J. And welcome home. It sounds trite and inadequate, but I can’t think of anything else to say.

  22. kaba Says:

    Those words are neither trite or inadequate. I waited more than ten years to hear those words in that context the first time.

    Thank you! And let us all remember to thank those we meet in uniform.

  23. Richard Aubrey Says:

    How am I supposed to be civil to the unspeakable moral retards who voted for this villain?

  24. Mike Mc. Says:

    How am I supposed to be civil to the unspeakable moral retards who voted for this villain?

    You are not supposed to be civil to those who are destroying civilization.

    That’s like being nice to cancer.

    You attack it and defeat it or you’re gone.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    How am I supposed to be civil to the unspeakable moral retards who voted for this villain?

    I struggle with this proposition, but ultimately conclude that most of them are not really culpable. They’re like children. They wanted ponies. One candidate promised ponies. So they voted for that candidate.

    Only grownups would realize that a) there couldn’t possibly be enough ponies to go around, and b) there was way to take care of all those ponies even if they existed, c) the candidate didn’t have the slightest intention or capability of providing ponies once he had their vote, and d) that the only trace of ponies in evidence was a vast amount of horseshit.

  26. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Thank you for your service and your ability to express what I and so many more like us feel.

    The grief for squadronmates lost in Vietnam, the bitter taste of rejection by fellow citizens, and anger at our Congress for the way they betrayed the South Vietnamese all came flooding back as this war has played out. I had hoped to live out my days in peace, but I’m working in everyway an old vet can to get our government to defend this nation and to do it with vigor and pride.

    Anyway, thank you for being so gifted at expressing the heart and mind of veterans like us. It soothes my soul to know there is someone who speaks so well for us.

    I appreciate being thanked for my service, but it isn’t really necessary. It was my privilege to serve. The warriors to thank are those who have been in all the major hell holes around the world for the last nine years.

  27. Rupert Says:

    My liberal friends, who supported the Afghan war when Bush was in charge, are now perplexed by the difficulties of the situation. Not one of them understands the simple logistics of keeping an army in the field. I fear that Obama had no idea of how to wage this war. You can’t just tell troops to try and not lose. My Father went through this in Korea and it only resulted in very bad morale and a higher level of casualties. I assumed Obama was clueless but this is dreadful.

  28. Susan Says:

    Is it really surprising that this person does not listen to his military experts? He is going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq and will do nothing to assist General Pratreus from a decisive victory in Afghanistan!!!

  29. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Sort of comforting. Sort of. But kids who wanted ponies wouldn’t have been so vile to the rest of us who knew better.
    IMO, it was a matter for the generally inadequate, substandard, less-intelligent to make themselves feel superior to the rubes.

  30. waltj Says:

    Afghanistan was the “right” war only when Obama didn’t have to be the one to try to win it. Now, he says he doesn’t even intend to win, but he still plans to spend American and allied lives fighting it. If not for victory, then for what? The man isn’t immoral, he’s amoral.

  31. Tom Says:

    kaba: respect and thanks.
    Personally, I was the only one in my family that was for the vietnam war. But because of a chronic illness, which I still have, was deemed ineligible to serve (there was a doctor draft, too) despite my desire.

    Obama is just plain evil. Or just plain rotten.

  32. John Says:

    Dick Morris:

    “His comments also indicate a total lack of realization of the escalating nature of terror attacks. In 1993, we lost a few people when terrorists hit the Trade Center. By 2001, they had refined their techniques and demolished the buildings and killed 3,000. The next attack is not likely to be “another 9/11.” It is far more probable that it would be a dirty bomb or even a nuclear device or some other weapon of mass destruction, dwarfing the casualties of 9/11. These things escalate.

    Finally, the Obama comments indicate a cold and inhuman view of the likelihood of 3,000 new deaths. He says we can “absorb” such mayhem. Can the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children of the dead “absorb” the attack as easily? Obama’s comments remind one of the notion of acceptable casualties in warfare. This is World War I thinking at its worst. Americans do not count on “absorbing” an attack of this magnitude. We see it as a unique horror to be avoided at all costs.

    But Obama, like Mao calculating how many Chinese he could afford to lose in a nuclear exchange, seems to focus on how much we can “absorb” as a nation.

    This is chilling stuff indeed.”

  33. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Part of the Cold War calculus, for the outsiders–nobody knew what the insiders were thinking–is that the USSR “absorbed” twenty million dead and lost much of their infrastructure in WW II. And won.
    How much would they think they could afford to lose if, at the end, there was no US and no NATO?

  34. NJcon Says:

    “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

    Translation: the troops are expendable.

  35. Wm Lawrence Says:


    Personally I think that’s a loss we could absorb…

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