Obama is starting out with a very somber tone. This can seem as a grudge like action. This is even further emphasized by the history of the conflict and the negative tone that he is portraying.
I like Obama’s future tense of the speech. It allows for him to use it to his advantage later when the history books write about the war. Post war policy is always important. My main comments for the overall content are:
Praise/Blame Bush: I like this trick. At the beginning of the speech he reminded the people about all the problems that Iraq has faced, minus the missing WMDs which I found odd. Next, he praised Bush for creating the policy. This will help his narrative of blame Bush for this economic mess all for a misguided policy which hurt domestic programs. This is a bit of a gamble because voters will either have amnesia from the Bush years and suddenly remember or they will think Obama is just trying to pass the blame off onto someone else.
Domino Theory: I hate when presidents say they are trying to fight a war to stop a cause from spreading. When he discussed the reason for staying in Afghanistan he said that we must prevent terrorism from spreading. What about Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan? It is like the containment argument to stop communism, the policy never actually worked.
Being Indefinite: Bad idea Mr. President. Using the term “conditions on the ground” will translate as “we don’t know when we are going to leave.” If he is flimsy with his withdrawal date, Obama will lose his liberal base. Also, Afghanistan is not like Iraq. The surge analogy will not work. Afghanistan has the Pakistan factor and a large drug trade that will hinder the withdrawal. These are two different countries with different experiences, do not lump them together.
He Will Lose the Independents: What the American people want is honesty. Obama should have said that he misjudged Iraq and the surge, many Democrats did. That is honesty and that is what independent voters want. Republicans will never say Obama is right on something and Democrats will not say Bush was right on something. Partisan as usual is what independents hate. If Obama would have said Bush was right on Iraq, I think he could have won the midterms for his party.
The economics part was nice, but presented nothing new. I think this speech will hurt the Democrats in the longterm.