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Not the change I voted for – Or is it?

December 3, 2009

Obama has now set a new course for the war in Afghanistan, but is this a doomed policy?

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement of the deployment of 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan, a plethora of voices have joined the argument, both on the left and right side of the aisle denouncing this decision.

While some come from families affiliated with the brave men and women that have given their lives and many gruelling tours of duty to this war and the questionable Iraq War, who just want to see their loved ones home, other voices have come from a worrying brigade of “I didn’t vote for this change”. And join those voices with those from the right who have taken to proclaiming this as “Obama’s War” which conviniently forgets the past 8 years of their legacy, I have found myself over the past few days defending Obama, not on a pro war footing, but reminding people, that YES this is the change they voted for.

During his campaign for President, Obama made it clear that the direction of war had been clouded when former President George W. Bush “dropped the ball” and entered the US military into a secondary war front. In fact even as far back as 1997, he was championing Afghanistan as the war ‘we need to win’. “We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists’ base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.”

And now with his most recent speech, he has reiterated this point: “Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.” (From Boston.com

It seems ludicrous to me that people are so quick to forget that no matter how hard this is to swallow for some, Barack Obama has been very clear for a while about his intentions in Afghanistan. Whether one agrees with the policy of war – which I do very much disagree with – it seems unfair to suddenly say “how is this change”.

Some have citied his recent Nobel Peace Prize award as reason for hypocrisy, but again, this was given even with the knowledge that he planned to take the US into a renewed resurgence into Afghanistan.

Other accusations have included Obama picking up Bush’s mantle, but with an exit strategy and a renewed vigor to work with the Afghanistan police and army, to strengthen them against the Taliban and to fight the Taliban in the strongholds Bush allowed them to retain after he moved troops into Iraq, Obama has more than proven his strategy is different.

Does it make it workable? I can not tell. Only time will tell. Remember everyone praised the surge in Iraq but despite initial successes, Iraq has seen this year some of the worst insurgence violence in the long and bloody Iraq War Mark II.

As hard as it may be for some to swallow, and given the movements that have sprung up in the US against the President since his inauguration, he is fulfilling his campaign promises:

  • The withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
  • The closure of Gitmo
  • A renewed resurgence to “target the insurgency and secure key population centers” in Afghanistan but with a target to bring the military home.

This is the change you hoped for.

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