The Long Game

May 2 2011 @ 1:53pm

GT_TIMESSQUARE_05012011 A reader writes:

Last night in one of your blog entries, you wrote:

“12.41 am. I have been sometimes at a loss to understand why president Obama would have escalated the war in Afghanistan as far as he did. Do you think it could because he was aiming for this all along?”

Yes – this is what he was aiming for all along. I have strongly believed, from the beginning, that the reason President Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, and why he put particular people (e.g., General McChrystal) in charge of some of the efforts over there, was because he wanted (of course) to weaken Al Qaeda, but most importantly because he wanted to find bin Laden and capture or kill him. In December 2009, after President Obama’s speech at the U.S. Military Academy, I spoke to my father, who is a retired military officer and who served in the Vietnam war when I was a baby.

My father was very distressed that President Obama was choosing to escalate the war in Afghanistan. My dad saw too many parallels with Vietnam and couldn’t see us crafting a winning strategy in Afghanistan. I knew this might not give my dad comfort, but I tried to explain to him what I thought was going on. President Obama, I told my dad, was doing this because he wanted to try to get bin Laden. He wanted to give this our very best effort – to martial all of the resources he had available to try to accomplish this. He wanted to finish the job that Bush never finished. He said this repeatedly during the 2008 campaign, and his clarity of purpose about this was a major reason I supported him over other candidates. The one candidate I could see who spoke unequivocally about wanting to find and apprehend bin Laden was Barack Obama.

He stated this many times – e.g., in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention: “When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.”

One of the reasons I have supported Barack Obama since he began his run for President is that if you listen carefully, he tells you clearly what he believes and what he’s going to do. If you try to put aside the chatter from the news outlets and pundits, and you read his books and listen to his speeches, you can figure out what he believes and what his intentions and plans are. This is a deeply conservative man, but also someone with empathy and kindness. He believes in the United States of America, he has a deep understanding of our values and what we stand for, and he sees that is right to defend those values, and to defend our citizenry.

I wonder sometimes, what do people hear when they listen to him speak? I’m a liberal Democrat. And I supported President Obama in his campaign and since then in large part because he said he would do this. It needed to be done.

(Photo: Servicemen hang off a lamp post cheering in celebration as thousands of people celebrate in the streets at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre, waving American flags and honking horns to celebrate the death of al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011 in New York City. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images.)