President Barack Obama outlined his plan to send more troops to Afghanistan during a speech Tuesday to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
According to Nielsen Media Research, 40.8 million TV viewers watched Obama’s speech, making it his most-watched speech since March 2008. Now the question on everyone’s mind is: Should the U.S. be sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?
A surge of this scale – the largest increase since the war began in 2001 according to the Guardian – seems like an uncharacteristic move for a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who ran on an anti-war platform.
Whether this is the best policy to pursue in Afghanistan is up for debate – Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, requested 40,000 – but it shows that Obama, the President, is very different from Obama, the candidate.
Obama ran on a platform of change, promising to be different from his predecessor, George W. Bush, but surging more troops in without clearly defined goals or detailed plans does not back it up.
Obama has set a tentative timetable with plans to start withdrawing troops by July 2011. However, he said full withdrawal would depend on how well the surge goes. “Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground,” Obama said.
One of the clearest signs that Obama is not bringing change may be that former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin actually praised Obama’s decision.
After the speech, Palin wrote on her Facebook that she had urged Obama to increase troop levels three months ago and was glad Obama had “mostly heeded” her advice, according to The Associated Press.
Obama has fallen behind or changed his mind on several campaign promises. The war in Iraq drags on despite his promise to bring it to an end while refocusing on Afghanistan.
Though Obama moved quickly to try to close Guantanamo Bay because of its connection to abuse of power and allegations of torture, his administration attempted to stop a British court from releasing intelligence documents relating to torture allegations by a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, according to the New York Times.
The Bush administration threatened to cut its intelligence-sharing with Britain if the documents were released – as did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
For Obama, there seems to be a lack of “change” within sight, just more of the same.