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The President’s Speech: Will The Horse Actually Sing?

For a long time I supported the war in Afghanistan. There are and were good reasons why we should make the effort to put some kind of functional government in place before leaving any nation where we removed the existing government by force. However, the time has come where it seems clear that we do not have the tools anymore to actually do this job, and so this war has lost me. This is not quite where the president is on this issue.

Tonight we will be treated the spectacle of President Obama working to sell the best of the worst choices for Afghanistan. What we will see is a punt, of course. There are no good or easy choices here.

Perhaps if the Republicans were less insane there might be some way for us to begin a withdrawal in short order. Perhaps if we did not still have our war of choice winding down (but not quickly enough) in Iraq we might have the resources required to fight a long-term counter insurgency. Perhaps if the criminal Bush Administration had actually understood merely toppling a government is not winning a war, had understood that when you go to war to get a terrorist group and its leader, the failure to do so is actually losing.

If the criminal Bush Administration had actually learned the lessons of Vietnam, namely that if you want to win a war, you send all the resources needed and then some this might not be the Valley of Crappy Choices we face today. Sadly, none of those things is true.

Tonight we are told to expect the President to explain his order to send 30,000 plus soldiers to Afghanistan. He will lay out the timetable which will stretch into 2011 before we will begin to wind down what will be our longest war. There are some good things in this plan. The ending of no-bid contracts will help with costs and set a precedent for future wars (gods, I hateto even type “future wars”!).

We will also go back to normal Congressional funding of the war efforts, no more “Emergency Supplemental” funding. This is a very important thing, as it allows the Congress to actually make the Pentagon live within a budget. It is the same as ending the no-bid contracts for private companies. There will be all of the funding for the military on the table during budgeting, instead of the sleight of hand we have had in the last eight years.

We will also put more pressure on the unbelievably corrupt Kharzi Government. The aid, which will be going to Afghanistan, will bypass the government in Kabul and go directly to the provinces. This is a very good thing, as the people will be able to see there is more to the American and NATO presence there than just our soldiers.

There will be a focus on the Pakistan boarder and the tribal regions there. This is where the plan goes and tries to clean up the mess the of Sec. Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush created by failing to capture Bin Laden when they had the chance. It is also the one of the riskiest parts of the plan, as we involve directly another country in the effort to win the counterinsurgency.

Tonight we will get plans, benchmarks and timetables. We will be told of the boundaries of this escalation of troops and given the goals, which all this will try to achieve. We might even be treated with the idea of a War Tax to fund all of this, but no one should hold their breath on that one.

We will get all this tonight, but it is not very likely to make a difference. Too much time has gone on, too much many opportunities have been missed and wasted for this amount of troops over this amount of time to really turn the war around. So, what is the President doing with this escalation? He is hoping the horse will learn to sing.

There is an old story of a thief who was caught and brought before the King for sentencing. He had been caught before so the punishment was to be death. Before the King could pronounce the sentence, the thief said if he was given a year, he could teach the King’s stallion to sing his favorite song.

The King was intrigued and so gave the thief one year to teach his horse to sing. Everyday the thief would stand in the courtyard and sing to the stallion. The other prisoners laughed and made fun of the thief for being so foolish. One of them asked him what he thought he was doing? The thief replied that he was buying time. Who knew what would happen in a year? The King might die. The thief might die. The horse might die or the horse might learn to sing.

This is where we are today and what we will hear from the president tonight. He is going to make a bet which puts the deadline a fairly long time out. He is ordering the best of his completely crappy options and will work hard to make his thin chance of success come true. All this he will do and say in the hopes that somehow against the odds, against all common sense something better than we can see today will happen, or the horse will learn to sing.

What is so sad about this plan is that it is the best of our options. We only have 50,000 troops in reserve right now and we will be ordering 60% of them to Afghanistan. We do not have the will of the Afghan people to help us, we do not have the will of the American people to help us, the cost of the wars are unsustainable and our economy is in the crapper.

We have worked our military women and men to the point of mental exhaustion and failed to care for them and rest them properly for this kind of extended war making. We have missed and misused opportunities and turned our eyes away from our first war in to go to a second one and screw it up as well. All this leaves us and the President in a place where our best hope for anything like success is the on the same level as teaching a stallion to sing.

The floor is yours.

"Originally posted at"

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for