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The Afghan Speech Obama Should Give

(But won't.)

| Thu Nov. 19, 2009 1:27 PM EST

Note on Sources and Further Reading: Because the above is meant to be a speech that President Obama might conceivably give, I included no links or sources. But let me suggest here readings for some of the key information "he" offers: The President's March 2009 Afghan War announcement can be found here; for a good list of the members of his "national security team" who attended his policy review sessions, see Sunlen Miller's, "A Look at the President's Meetings on Afghanistan and Pakistan"; for estimates of the number of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, see Joshua Partlow, "In Afghanistan, Taliban surpasses al-Qaeda"; on the costs of sending more troops to Afghanistan, see Christopher Drew, "High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War"; for the $65 billion cost of the war without further escalation, see Nathan Hodge, "Sign of the Times: Afghanistan War Costs Higher Than Iraq"; two TomDispatch pieces worth reading in relation to the "president's" seven points are Ann Jones, "Meet the Afghan Army," and Pratap Chatterjee, "Paying Off the Warlords"; on corruption, see as well, Aram Roston, "How the U.S. Funds the Taliban"; on the Vietnam book the president and his advisors are reading, see Peter Spiegel and Jonathan Weisman "Behind Afghan War Debate, a Battle of Two Books Rages";on Russian troop levels in the 1980s and ours today, see James Fergusson, "Obama is haunted by Gorbachev's ghost"; on the upcoming White House Jobs Summit, see Robert Kuttner, "A Wake Up Call on Jobs"; on the Civilian Conservation Corps, see William Astore, "Hey, Government! How About Calling on Us?".

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll's thoughtful assessment of the president and the Afghan War, "Arlington, Obama, and the Afghan Decision," is not to be missed, but the single must-read piece of the last weeks should be Jonathan Schell's reconsideration of Vietnam in our moment, "The Fifty-Year War." Must-visit websites on the Afghan War and the "debate" at home include: Juan Cole's Informed Comment,, the War in Context, Rethink Afghanistan, and the Af/Pak Channel's invaluable Daily Brief. Once before, I wrote a speech, no less ignored than this one will be -- an inaugural address -- for the president (just in case you're interested in my full career as a speech writer).

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