On Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from US Military Academy at West Point regarding his plan to end the war in Afghanistan.
In the midst of rising unemployment, historic deficits and a new health care system, Americans listened attentively to the president’s words in search of an answer for why they should still be focused on a war that has lasted eight years.
The commander in chief tried to convince Americans to hold on, but his speech left many questions unanswered.
Al-Qaida still poses a real threat, though the Washington Post reported recently that there are only an estimated 100 members left in Afghanistan. Obama didn’t try to belie the gravity of the situation.
But with so much speculation about the next step, the president still hasn’t convinced the public that the end justifies the means.
Asking for $30 billion more per year to fund a war that’s already cost $172 billion as of April is a tall order and leaves the nation wondering: With all our overwhelming domestic problems, at what point do we cut our losses?
Health care reform, expected to be approved in the coming month, will run the nation $850 billion over 10 years, a staggering number considering the nation’s $1.4-trillion deficit. Compound that with multibillion-dollar bailouts for the Bank of Americas, GMs and Freddie Macs of the world, and the public has reason to be wary of the expenses.
But the truth is, despite the staggering prices of bailouts and reforms, the spending is necessary to sustain and change the American infrastructure.
The same can’t be said for expenses in Afghanistan. At some point, enough is enough.
Obama undoubtedly understands the implications of an escalated front. He wisely chose an audience full of the men and women whom he is asking to fight overseas. But the public must have full confidence in Obama if the war is to move forward — support he didn’t garner with his speech Tuesday evening.
First of all, where do we get the money? Do we fund the war with a progressive tax, or do we freeze other spending and allocate funds away from projects such as the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February? Financing, though, isn’t the only question. His plan still has many holes.
For example, why does the commander in chief plan on deploying only 30,000 more troops, when Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that a minimum of 40,000 troops were needed to succeed in Afghanistan.
It makes even less sense that Obama would set a deadline to withdraw troops by July 2011. If success in Afghanistan is that critical, why force our way out if we fail? The Afghanistan government is not yet fully stable after eight long years. How is it going to improve so dramatically in just two?
Although a final date helps citizens keep the end in sight and reminds Afghan President Hamid Karzai that America will only be around for so long, there is a real possibility that two years won’t be long enough.
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) remark that, “The way that you win wars is you break the enemy’s will, not announce when you are leaving,” is more rational. Sure enough, Obama is losing support from anti-war Democrats convinced that he’s digging himself deeper into a hole and still pretending China is on the other side.
Whether or not the allocations of troops will ultimately prove to be the correct choice, Obama left many questions unanswered by the time he stepped away from the podium.
Robert Fragoza is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. His column, “Reality Check,” ran Fridays.