Tonight President Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address to Congress. He spoke for a bit over an hour on a variety of issues for which he believes government action is necessary. Mr. Obama said that the US is better positioned than any other nation to move forward economically. He asked the assembled Congress if government would help or hinder that process. That is my question too, but I think the President and I might answer it differently.
I would like to comment on a number of the points about which Mr. Obama spoke. Some need further thought and/or research. So tonight I will share some thoughts on the military/foreign policy section of the speech, and take on other issues in the next few days.
President Obama began this topic by citing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when he took office and how many are currently in Afghanistan in support roles as the Afghan military has taken over the security of their country. Mr. Obama pointed out that we no longer have troops in Iraq and he spoke about continuing to help Afghanistan if they will sign the status of forces agreement currently being negotiated.
The truth is that Afghan President Karzai has already said that he will not sign such an agreement. In President Obama’s comparisons of where we were and where we are now, he also forgot to mention that since the withdrawal of US troops, Iraq has gone from barely managed chaos to total chaos punctuated by extremist bombings. As Mr. Obama enthusiastically embraces the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, does the likely possibility of similar chaos even cross his mind?
The President again called for the closure of the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been calling for that since his 2008 campaign for president, but has not taken any action.
US leadership is the reason Syria’s chemical weapons will be destroyed, according to Mr. Obama. Actually, the US was late to that party, with other nations leading the initial calls for action in Syria. The President also said the US had the lead in working to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon. It’s a bit hard to know much about this issue, since the American public, and even some Congressmen, have not been allowed to see the entire text for the agreement made with Iran. (The International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly did not want technical data released.) Columnist Charles Krauthammer brought up an interesting point: Iran is turning its uranium into an oxide – and that process is reversible. So this only puts another obstacle in Iran’s path; it doesn’t totally prevent the eventual manufacture of a weapon.
The one moment of the speech that united virtually everyone was when the President introduced Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama pledged help for returning veterans. I hope he follows through on that long-term committment.