The much awaited speech is now behind us and, having announced 30,000 more troops for Afghanistan, Barack Obama is, in the eyes of some, the new war president. Yesterday I said that it was possible even before he was elected to anticipate Obama's continuing commitment to the war in Afghanistan and Jeffrey Goldberg (via) provides chapter and verse for that. But there's something else that ought to be said. In a certain light, you see, Obama isn't only a new war president; he's also an old war president. For though he is indeed a new, or at least newish, president, what he reaffirmed America's commitment to last night was an old war. As he put the point himself in that speech:
So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.
It's umistakeable - the sort of matter occasionally referred to on this blog as a FKATWOT, and now rebranded as a war against violent extremism. Even Michael Tomasky, no war-on-terror man he, is assuring us today of the anti-terror rationale for Obama's decision.
As important as the continuity is, not to be lost sight of is another part of the rationale for the decision: namely, the future of the people of Afghanistan, a concern for human rights there (as well as elsewhere) so regularly shrugged aside by those who want the US gone from the country without more ado.