13 October 2009

A well-drafted ode to the US soldier

Thomas Friedman makes a compelling suggestion for President Obama's Peace Prize speech.

Friedman: The world's most important peacekeepers
The New York Times
The Nobel committee did President Barack Obama no favors by prematurely awarding him its peace prize. As he himself acknowledged, he has not done anything yet on the scale that would normally merit such an award - and it dismays me that the most important prize in the world has been devalued in this way.

It is not the president's fault, though, that the Europeans are so relieved at his style of leadership, in contrast to that of his predecessor, that they want to do all they can to validate and encourage it. I thought the president showed great grace in accepting the prize not for himself but "as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations."

All that said, I hope Obama will take this instinct a step further when he travels to Oslo on Dec. 10 for the peace prize ceremony. Here is the speech I hope he will give:

"Let me begin by thanking the Nobel committee for awarding me this prize, the highest award to which any statesman can aspire. As I said on the day it was announced, 'I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.' Therefore, upon reflection, I cannot accept this award on my behalf at all.

"But I will accept it on behalf of the most important peacekeepers in the world for the past century - the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

"I will accept this award on behalf of the American soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, to liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi fascism. I will accept this award on behalf of the American soldiers and sailors who fought on the high seas and forlorn islands in the Pacific to free East Asia from Japanese tyranny in the Second World War.

"I will accept this award on behalf of the American airmen who in June 1948 broke the Soviet blockade of Berlin with an airlift of food and fuel so that West Berliners could continue to live free. I will accept this award on behalf of the tens of thousands of American soldiers who protected Europe from communist dictatorship throughout the 50 years of the Cold War.

"I will accept this award on behalf of the American soldiers who stand guard today at outposts in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan to give that country, and particularly its women and girls, a chance to live a decent life free from the Taliban's religious totalitarianism.

"I will accept this award on behalf of the American men and women who are still on patrol today in Iraq, helping to protect Baghdad's fledgling government as it tries to organize the rarest of things in that country and that region - another free and fair election.

"I will accept this award on behalf of the thousands of American soldiers who today help protect a free and democratic South Korea from an unfree and communist North Korea.

"I will accept this award on behalf of all the American men and women soldiers who have gone on repeated humanitarian rescue missions after earthquakes and floods from the mountains of Pakistan to the coasts of Indonesia. I will accept this award on behalf of American soldiers who serve in the peacekeeping force in the Sinai desert that has kept relations between Egypt and Israel stable ever since the Camp David treaty was signed.

"I will accept this award on behalf of all the American airmen and sailors today who keep the sea lanes open and free in the Pacific and Atlantic so world trade can flow unhindered between nations.

"Finally, I will accept this award on behalf of my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived at Normandy six weeks after D-Day, and on behalf of my great-uncle, Charlie Payne, who was among those soldiers who liberated part of the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald.

"Members of the Nobel committee, I accept this award on behalf of all these American men and women soldiers, past and present, because I know - and I want you to know - that there is no peace without peacekeepers.

"Until the words of Isaiah are made true and lasting - and nations never again lift up swords against nations and never learn war anymore - we will need peacekeepers. Lord knows, ours are not perfect, and I have already moved to remedy inexcusable excesses we've perpetrated in the war on terrorism.

"But have no doubt, those are the exception. If you want to see the true essence of America, visit any U.S. military outpost in Iraq or Afghanistan. You will meet young men and women of every race and religion who work together as one, far from their families, motivated chiefly by their mission to keep the peace and expand the borders of freedom.

"So for all these reasons - and so you understand that I will never hesitate to call on American soldiers where necessary to take the field against the enemies of peace, tolerance and liberty - I accept this peace prize on behalf of the men and women of the U.S. military: the world's most important peacekeepers."

Mr. Friedman has won three Pulitzer Prizes for his writing.

Krauthammer provides a solid critique of current waffling on Afghanistan

The State | 10/11/2009 | Krauthammer: Obama's agony over Afghan war

Krauthammer: Obama's agony over Afghan war
The Washington Post
The genius of democracy is the rotation of power, which forces the opposition to be serious - particularly about things like war, about which until Jan. 20 of this year Democrats were decidedly unserious.

When the Iraq War (which a majority of Senate Democrats voted for) ran into trouble and casualties began to mount, Democrats followed the shifting winds of public opinion and turned decidedly anti-war. But needing political cover because of their post-Vietnam reputation for weakness on national defense, they adopted Afghanistan as their pet war.

"I was part of the 2004 Kerry campaign, which elevated the idea of Afghanistan as 'the right war' to conventional Democratic wisdom," wrote Democratic consultant Bob Shrum shortly after President Obama was elected. "This was accurate as criticism of the Bush administration, but it was also reflexive and perhaps by now even misleading as policy."

Which is a clever way to say that championing victory in Afghanistan was a contrived and disingenuous policy in which Democrats never seriously believed, a convenient two-by-four with which to bash George Bush over Iraq - while still appearing warlike enough to fend off the soft-on-defense stereotype.

Brilliantly crafted and perfectly cynical, the "Iraq War bad, Afghan War good" posture worked. Democrats first won Congress, then the White House. But now, unfortunately, they must govern. No more games. No more pretense.

So what does their commander in chief do now with the war he once declared had to be won but had been almost criminally under-resourced by Bush?

Perhaps provide the resources to win it?

You would think so. And that's exactly what Obama's handpicked commander requested on Aug. 30 - a surge of 30,000 to 40,000 troops to stabilize a downward spiral and save Afghanistan the way a similar surge saved Iraq.

That was more than five weeks ago. Still no response. Obama agonizes publicly as the world watches. Why? Because, explains national security adviser James Jones, you don't commit troops before you decide on a strategy.

No strategy? On March 27, flanked by his secretaries of defense and state, the president said this: "Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan." He then outlined a civilian-military counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And to emphasize his seriousness, the president made clear that he had not arrived casually at this decision. The new strategy, he declared, "marks the conclusion of a careful policy review."

Conclusion, mind you. Not the beginning. Not a process. The conclusion of an extensive review, the president assured the nation, that included consultation with military commanders and diplomats, with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with our NATO allies and members of Congress.

The general in charge was then relieved and replaced with Obama's own choice, Stanley McChrystal. And it's McChrystal who submitted the request for the 40,000 troops, a request upon which the commander in chief promptly gagged.

The White House began leaking an alternate strategy, apparently proposed (invented?) by Vice President Biden, for achieving immaculate victory with arm's-length use of cruise missiles, predator drones and special ops.

The irony is that no one knows more about this kind of warfare than Gen. McChrystal. He was in charge of exactly this kind of "counterterrorism" in Iraq for nearly five years, killing thousands of bad guys in hugely successful under-the-radar operations.

When the world's expert on this type of counterterrorism warfare recommends precisely the opposite strategy - "counterinsurgency," meaning a heavy-footprint, population-protecting troop surge - you have the most convincing of cases against counterterrorism by the man who most knows its potential and its limits. And McChrystal was emphatic in his recommendation: To go any other way than counterinsurgency would lose the war.

Yet his commander in chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes. His domestic advisers, led by Rahm Emanuel, tell him if he goes for victory, he'll become LBJ, the domestic visionary destroyed by a foreign war. His vice president holds out the chimera of painless counterterrorism success.

Against Emanuel and Biden stand David Petraeus, the world's foremost expert on counterinsurgency (he saved Iraq with it), and Stanley McChrystal, the world's foremost expert on counterterrorism. Whose recommendation on how to fight would you rely on?

Less than two months ago - Aug. 17 in front of an audience of veterans - the president declared Afghanistan to be "a war of necessity." Does anything he says remain operative beyond the fading of the audience applause?

E-mail Mr. Krauthammer at letters@charleskrauthammer.com.