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12.01.09

He's No JFK

The speech wasn’t bad. But Obama failed to inspire, let alone satisfy. Ken Allard asks: Whatever happened to “pay any price, bear any burden?”

From the doodles on my notepad while waiting for the president’s speech to begin:

There once was a young Prez from DC
Who said to his generals, "Let's see?
We can send you more troops
And NATO human-rights groups
But Afghan war brides? Oh PUH-leeze!"

The good news was that the speech really wasn’t all that bad. The bad news: It wasn’t even remotely reminiscent of Winston Churchill—maybe not even Walter Mondale. OK, it’s hard for a single speech to appeal to multiple constituencies without sounding mildly schizophrenic. But Obama’s gifts as a world-class orator were wasted in the tangled logic of a strategy that was supposed to clarify things. It did not: a vague, defensive, too-clever-by-half effort that neither inspired nor satisfied.

More Daily Beast experts weigh in on Obama’s battle cry

Watch: 7 Key Moments of Obama’s Speech
Think I’m kidding? Let’s see: The fight in Afghanistan is vital to the security of the United States and all mankind. And if we lose, it might even give those Islamic extremists next door in Pakistan control of their own nuclear weapons. But guys, no later than July 2011 (just in time for the congressional elections) we are SO OUTTA THERE! Senator Lindsey Graham acidly observed that it sounded as if the troops might be leaving before they even arrived.

There has been a great deal of blather by the chattering classes about off-ramps and exit strategies, overlooking the fact that Patton would have argued that the entire point of war is making the other fellow have an exit strategy. The president may have felt obliged to appease his own left wing. But what has become of the Democratic Party that produced the young JFK—who rallied the country to “pay any price and bear any burden” in defending freedom? Could the party possibly be haunted by memories of the Vietnam-Cold War-Bosnia-Iraq its leaders never knew?

A necessarily anonymous Army buddy, a self-described K-Mart Kipling who opposes this war, wrote this tonight:

He sent our troops to the Kush,
Where they can’t find a green bush,
For while the mission was vague,
And IEDs sure were a plague,
Our president had covered his tush!

Colonel Ken Allard (US Army, Ret.) is a draftee who eventually served on the West Point faculty, as dean of the National War College and as a NATO peacekeeper in Bosnia. His most recent book, Warheads: Cable News and the Fog of War, is a memoir of his 10 years as an on-air military analyst with NBC News.