JAY: First of all, let's just start with President Obama's stated reason for sending these troops to Afghanistan. Do you think this is the reason for sending thirty more thousand troops? Al-Qaeda?
WILKERSON: I think you have to examine the decision that he made in all of its dimensions. You didn't mention that I also teach. You didn't need to. What I teach is presidential national security decision-making—"fateful decisions", I call them, decisions to send young men and young women to die for state purposes.
JAY: I thought there was a moment there when President Obama came out and looked at the audience and saw he's talking about kids. I'm not sure that was the best place to make this speech, a room full of 22-year-olds.
WILKERSON: Yeah. There were some good aspects to it and some bad aspects to it. But it did, I think, mean he had to give a somber, sober, and sane speech that had lacked rhetorical flourish. He does not have the bona fides for speaking with rhetorical flourishes. I applaud him for recognizing that. Some have criticized the speech for being too realistic, too practical, too low-key. It's exactly what he needed to give. I've talked to that audience two, three in the last two years, staff, faculty, and cadets.
JAY: At West Point.
WILKERSON: At West Point. And it's been a sobering affair for me. They are concerned about where they're going. They're not happy in some respects about where they're going. This is not the conventional wisdom. They're not at all happy about where they're going [inaudible]
JAY: Yeah, there weren't a lot of hurrah-hurrahs going on there last night.
WILKERSON: A lot of the staff and faculty there are not happy about what they're seeing happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan or generally with their armed forces. Now, let's face it. The land forces have been at this now for seven, eight, going on nine years, if we count Afghanistan exclusively. They're about broken. The bill for repairing my army, your army, America's army, its probably upwards of $100 billion right now, just to replace the equipment—the airplanes, helicopters, and so forth—that we've destroyed or gravely damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a different military right now. I daresay that it probably couldn't fight a conventional war, because we've got artillerymen being infantryman, we've got MPs being infantrymen. We've got different kinds of enemy out there, and when you spend this much time after that enemy, you change your ethos, you change your training, you change the way you feel about conflict. It's a very different military right now.
"Obama's choice" pure politics
Lawrence Wilkerson: Obama's campaign rhetoric and his generals put him in a corner on Afghanistan
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