Why Afghanistan is now Obama’s war
It was an awkward situation for the new president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with a limited track record in foriegn policy. Anders Pedersen reports.
He surely didn’t expect it. And most likely, he probably would have preferred if it had been given to somebody else. However, on a beautiful autumn day in the beginning of October 2009, president Obama received the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Nobel Committee.
It is not exactly an every day event that the incumbent president of the United States is given the Nobel Peace Prize, and when addressing the topic later that afternoon, the president said that he honestly did not feel he deserved the honor, but that he would accept it in Oslo, Norway in the middle of December 2009.
Even though one could argue that it was unusual enough that Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize after such a short time in office, the committee’s decision became questionable even more so during the events that took place in the months between the announcement and the official ceremony.
Just one week before giving one of his best speeches as president that December day in Oslo, he spoke in front of hundreds of cadets at the West Point Military Academy north of New York City. In this speech he announced that he was going to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 34.000. A remarkable decision that was the result of months of debates and meetings: agreeing and disagreeing within the Obama administration about what to do with Afghanistan.
This was not Obama’s war just yet. It was a war that he had inherited by his predecessor, George W. Bush, and therefore he could not be blamed for all the things that went wrong in Afghanistan. But as the new commander in chief, it was now his job to figure out how to deal with the war, as public support had decreased long before Obama took office.
In the beginning of his presidency, Obama pointed out general Stanley McChrystal the new head of the Afghanistan mission and asked him to deliver a report about how things were going in Afghanistan and what he would need to finish the mission. The answer came in late summer of 2009, that 40.000 additional troops would be needed if general McChrystal was going to be able to do the job.
This report divided the Obama administration into numerous groups. Some would agree with McChrystal, some would disagree and then there were ’the in betweeners’ who could see why it would make sense to send more troops to Afghanistan but that 40.000 was a bit too much.
As it turned out, Obama decided to almost fulfill the request of McChrystal, and thereby also setting a new strategy for Afghanistan. This decision alone would now make Afghanistan ‘Obama’s war’.
How Afghanistan became Obama’s war and the conflicts within the administration about this topic has formidably been described in the book ’Obama’s Wars’ written by one of the most acknowledged political journalists in America, Bob Woodward from the Washington Post. Since his first book ’All The President’s Men’, which won the Pulitzer Prize, he has written a number of books about almost every administration.
Not only does ’Obama’s Wars’ tell the inside story about the first major foreign policy decision president Obama made. It also provides insight into the way the president and his administration view the war in Afghanistan. And why it was no coincidence the president announced the beginning of troop withdrawal starting from the summer of 2011, right after he announced the increasing of troops.
Even if the war in Afghanistan will not be as dominant a theme as for instance the economy or unemployment, it is inarguably going to be a topic that will be discussed during the campaign. To gain both deep and detailed background knowledge before these debates starts, there is no better book to read than ’Obama’s Wars’.
Title: Obama’s Wars
Author: Bob Woodward