As Albert Camus once said, "The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor." After tonight's speech, there can be little doubt that Afghanistan will be, for Obama, the Sisyphus war.
At best, war is a difficult enterprise, but by his decision to fan the fires of a conflict that is languishing, and extinguishing itself, this president will share the distinction, with Sisyphus, of endlessly trying to defy gravity.
This was a speech of contradictions -- an increase of troops in order to facilitate withdrawal, a desire to stabilize, and support an unstable, and corrupt government, and a refrain that has become at once familiar, and tired, one that harps on 9/11 as justification for prolonging a struggle from which even Sisyphus would have been spared.
Who can forget image of Gates and Clinton, Defense and State, sitting side by side, collaborators in seeing to it that this newest inhabitant of the Oval Office is fed his minimum daily requirement of Kool-Aid. Only one who forgets that U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan longer than Iraq could accept the rationale behind not merely extending their stay, but increasing their numbers by 50%.
Have those who govern this country become so cynical that they think the American public will believe, even for an instant, that we're sending a fresh crop of young men and women into harm's way to inflict "freedom" on yet another part of the world?
Do the heads of State and Defense, and the commander-in-chief, expect any literate adult to believe that it's possible to eradicate bin Laden, and Al Qaeda, without involving Pakistan?
Is it any secret who trained bin Laden when he was a Freedom Fighter in Afghanistan? Is there any doubt about where U.S. funds went that were funneled into Pakistan for the ten plus year period during which General Musharraf ruled?
Why would anyone expect to find a fugitive from the CIA, bin Laden who was allowed to escape months after 9/11, to be hiding out in the same cave in Tora Bora for the past eight plus years? He must have serious hemorrhoids by now.
The pliable target date for withdrawal is eighteen months away. In light of the eight years already invested in the region, there can be little doubt that in July, 2011, this administration, like that of its predecessor, may find itself condemned to watching a rock fall back on itself.