What to listen for in Obama’s speech

Readers of this blog know that I think the war in Afghanistan is misguided, and I am disappointed that President Obama is about to make what I regard as a major strategic blunder. That said, here are the 5 questions that I’ll be thinking about when I listen to his remarks this evening. 1. Why ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
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576119_091201_WAtl291062333b2.jpg

Readers of this blog know that I think the war in Afghanistan is misguided, and I am disappointed that President Obama is about to make what I regard as a major strategic blunder. That said, here are the 5 questions that I'll be thinking about when I listen to his remarks this evening.

1. Why does he believe that 30,000 more troops will lead to success in Afghanistan, given that the ratio of foreign troops relative to the local population will still be much smaller than the number required for successful military occupations?

Readers of this blog know that I think the war in Afghanistan is misguided, and I am disappointed that President Obama is about to make what I regard as a major strategic blunder. That said, here are the 5 questions that I’ll be thinking about when I listen to his remarks this evening.

1. Why does he believe that 30,000 more troops will lead to success in Afghanistan, given that the ratio of foreign troops relative to the local population will still be much smaller than the number required for successful military occupations?

2. Even staunch advocates of the war concede that our task is “daunting,” and several independent studies and reports — including General McChrystal’s own assessment — maintain that the United States will have to stay in Afghanistan for at least five to ten years, at a cost of billions of dollars per year. Will the president say this explicitly, or will he try to convince us that these reports are wrong and that it won’t take nearly that long or cost nearly that much?

3. How will this new escalation in Afghanistan deal with al Qaeda’s “safe havens” in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere?

4. What domestic programs or military expenditures will be cut in order to pay for this escalation? Alternatively, what new revenue sources is Obama planning to exploit in order to fund an expanded war?  (I don’t really expect him to answer this question, but its one we should all be asking.)

5. How long is he giving the Afghan government to get its act together? Does he set a firm deadline or just some sort of vague benchmark. If the Karzai government cannot or will not reform itself, will Obama explicitly promise the American people that he will disengage? And if he does make such a promise, doesn’t that mean that this is not a “war of necessity” after all?

DAVID FURST/AFP/Getty Images

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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