It was interesting to see the expressions on the faces of the cadets listening to their commander-in-chief explaining our plans for Afghanistan. The quote of Eisenhower echoed in Eisenhower Hall: "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."
I wonder how hard cadets at West Point weigh broader considerations. Eisenhower maintained a low profile in Vietnam because he felt that was the practical scale of engagement in a war of attrition he realized was bound to last a great while. Perhaps that is the direction we are headed in Afghanistan. Limited engagement. Persistent, but at levels that are sustainable. But nothing black and white, and no commitments etched in stone.
There was an almost stony intellectualism in the President's speech. A very different commander-in-chief than we have seen is a while. The whole presentation boils down to this: We did not choose this war, so now we must fight to get into a position where we do choose the battles we will fight.
And John McCain vouched for much of the President's approach, with the exception of setting a target time for a draw down. A loyal opposition with a caveat. Senator McCain is very valuable ally to the President on Afghanistan, albeit an incomplete endorsement. An honorable extension of good faith at a time when our republic is replete with partisan bickering at each and every turn. Would Senator Obama have extended the same gesture if President McCain was speaking this evening? Tonight I feel grateful to have Senator McCain supporting with passion the cerebral approach of a President that is deliberate to a degree that might be seen as lacking temerity to those unfamiliar with the complexity of Afghanistan. McCain is very much a soldier who simply seeks to put the mission first without considering all the other factors that a President must to keep our country the preeminent leader of both force and freedom.