The tide changes for Obama on Afghanistan


President Obama has told the American people that a difficult decade of war is reaching a conclusion: "These long wars will come to a responsible end" he said, adding: "The tide of war is receding."

It is an oddly poetic phrase echoing Shakespeare's Brutus "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."

Prosaically that means you have to snatch your chances when you can, before it is too late.

This is a moment when President Obama can do what was unthinkable two years ago. He can defy the Pentagon. Early in his presidency it would have been too risky to ignore military advice. He had to allow them to have a go at winning their way in Afghanistan.

Even so it is tricky to reject the advice of both your defence secretary and his top general in Afghanistan. So lucky that this is the moment that the former is retiring and the latter changing jobs.

He still couldn't have done it without a shifting tide in public opinion. Polls suggest an increasing number of Americans want to quit Afghanistan asap.

Barack Obama The concerns of voters are weighing heavy with an election around the corner in 2012

The seas do not change so much that Republicans would bathe the president in love.

John McCain has said: "I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made."

Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have made similar remarks. But it is a sign of the times that they may be stranded, apart from some of their fellows.

Another candidate, Jon Huntsman, has said the withdrawal is too slow: "Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight."

The president can also argue that the tide really has turned. Bin Laden's death is what allows him to make the case but intelligence agencies do seem to think al-Qaeda is a busted flush and Afghanistan is certainly not a safe haven anymore.

Some argue a terrible attack may well happen in the future. But its would-be perpetrators are more likely to be based in Yemen or the UK than Afghanistan.

But the flood that washes away all other arguments is the state of the economy.

With the other main news of the day a worrying report from the Federal Reserve, a key part of Obama's short speech was when he said: "Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource - our people.

"America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home."

With an election around the corner, voters concerns and fears weigh more heavily than wishes of the generals to pursue elusive victory.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Has Libya been let down by the West?

The West has failed to support nation-building in Libya, and we are now seeing the consequences, says Mark Mardell.

Read full article


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  • Comment number 151.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    America's sane people are very aware that the problem is with Greedy Republicans and their supporters and lobbyist. The next election will destroy the GOP and or Tea Party as they are one in the same. I know you guess!

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Republicans and Fox news are the only problems with this country. THE ONLY PROBLEM!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Let the default happen. Then he (the President) can choose what bills to pay) No more subsidies for Corporations of any kind. 1st on the list is the Congress and Senate should have their pay eliminated for 1 yr to help pay the bills. All lobbyists should be jailed for 5 years immediately with no chance of probation. All stupidity will come to a screeching halt and MARK will stop being a GOP Shill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    And now ca one third of American voters think that Barack Husein and his party are responsible for a stalemate in deficit redution negotiations.

  • Comment number 146.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Any terrorist could throw a burka on, so its understandable why Austraila made their new law

    Someone should not be excempt from being treated the same as rest of us just cause' wearing a burka

    France, Austraila are smart to make laws now and make things clear

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Police in Australia's New South Wales state have been given more powers to remove burkas and other face coverings to identify crime suspects.

    The move follows the recent case of a Muslim woman who was acquitted after a judge ruled her Islamic veil made a positive identification impossible. ((BBC)

    I wonder what pres. Barack Hussein Obama thinks about that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    That being said, USA really had no reason to intervene in Libya; it wasn't hurting us, we have plenty of other things to spend our money on, it was not direct threat or threatening an ally

    Libya was not harming Europe either, Europe has plenty of other things to spend their money on as well

    Libya is kind of like Europe's Iraq
    But they have only been there short time; we are now exiting Iraq

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Why would Megrahi be released with what crimes he was charged with, but Gaddafi hunted down for fighting for his side in Civil war?

    Its like Europe has done a 180 in Libya

    I think they thought it might be easy, being a small country, but so far, it seems to be quite complicated

    And it sounds like it has set off a chain effect

    I'm glad it was Europe leading the way and not USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Re #135 Lucy:

    That's what Europe can expect in a retaliation for targetting Gaddafi.

    And dropping arms for 'innocent civilians' :

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Since there is such a large amount of deaths by overdose of prescrip pills, alcohol and cigarettes, I do not believe its the studies why marijuana is not legal as clearly the feds allow prescip pills, alcohol and cigs

    Its a billion dollar business- via law enforcement and via the drug cartel

    Do you realize majority of drug arrests and prisoners for such in America are for marijuana?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    What about the studies linking alcohol to liver disease or cigarettes to lung cancer or overuse of prescription pills/addiction to an unprecenteded number of deaths?

    How can the govt say its okay to take prescription pills prescribed by your Dr to combat depression with side effect of psychosis but not okay to use marijuana which is a natural plant from the ground?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I think we're on the same page.
    America welcomes immigrants who are law abiding & respectful-whatever ethnicity they may be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I watch "Cops", too.
    The whole issue re legalization is very troubling.Marijuana is not the the same drug it was in the 1960's.There have been a number of studies linking cannabis use to psychosis.On the other hand as you mention, a huge amt of energy & resources are spent by law enforcement when there are much worse drugs & other crime issues to deal with.I don't have an answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    But arresting kids/people for marijuana is a billion dollar business

    I saw Cops not long ago and in its episodes they caught several people with small amounts of marijuana and it just amazed me how horrible they treat people with such when there are real criminals and real bad drugs on the streets

    The fact that cops are more interesting in policing marijuana than meth, child abuse, is sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    So the ICC is pursuing the arrest of Gaddafi, underwhat jurisdiction?

    No one really knows

    In hindsite, NATO intervening may have saved a few lives, but it has prolonged a Civil war with no end in sight

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Pmk: suggested we should occupy Mexico City and even incorporate whole Mexico into U.S

    There's only one group the Mexican drug cartel are scared of


    At some point, I do beleieve we will get drawn into conflict

    Ironically, if USA legalized marijuana/hemp it would decrease the source of funds for Mexican drug cartel and stop the biggest part of the problem in its tracks

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    131 powerneer
    "Since he was always a conservative he cannot possibly be a neo-con."
    So, he's just a 'con' then?

    "Unfortunately UN Hdqs still occupies a pricey lot in lower Manhattan and its aparatchiks don't want to move it to Beijing, Damascus, Moscow or Tehran."
    We, so it should if Bolton calls it "another useful instrument of American foreign policy".


  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    129.margaret howard
    53 Minutes ago
    A few more of his ramblings
    "There is no such thing as the United Nations.

    True, as everybody can see there's not even a united Europe.

    [when push comes to shove everybody's for himself]

    Unfortunately UN Hdqs still occupies a pricey lot in lower Manhattan and its aparatchiks don't want to move it to Beijing, Damascus, Moscow or Tehran.


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