Aug 18, 2009
Obama's speech in Phoenix
Obama Explains Strategy In Afghanistan
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
New York Times
August 18, 2009
PHOENIX — President Obama on Monday defended his decision to increase American involvement in Afghanistan, calling it a “a war of necessity” and warning an audience of military veterans that Al Qaeda was still plotting to attack the United States and would not easily be defeated.
With the Pentagon assessing strategy and troop deployments in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama made no specific policy announcements. But he did address the criticism that he would get bogged down in Afghanistan, allowing that war to turn into a second Vietnam.
“We must never forget,” he said. “This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.
“So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
The speech, to an audience of 5,500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their families, was in pointed contrast to Mr. Obama’s frequent criticism of the war in Iraq as “a war of choice.” The president on Monday repeated his pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, saying, “And for America, the Iraq war will end.”
As a commander in chief who has never served in the armed forces, Mr. Obama is still working to establish his bona fides with the military. His predecessor, George W. Bush, typically received wildly enthusiastic receptions from military audiences; Mr. Obama’s speech was interrupted only occasionally by polite applause.
The president drew some of his most enthusiastic applause when he sharply criticized wasteful military spending, declaring: “It’s simple enough. Cut the waste. Save taxpayer dollars. Support the troops.”
And he also took pains to praise a hometown politician, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival in last year’s presidential campaign. Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain “a great veteran, a great Arizonan and a great American who has shown the courage to stand and fight this waste.”
The only standing ovation came during Mr. Obama’s lone reference to the health care debate, when he said: “One thing that reform won’t change is veterans’ health care. No one is going to take away your benefits. That’s the truth.”