One didn't have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama's speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.
The speech continued in that vein. It was as though Obama had taken one of his old campaign speeches and merged it with a text from the library of ex-President George W. Bush. Extremists kill in the name of Islam, he said, before adding that it is one of the "world's great religions." He promised that responsibility for the country's security would soon be transferred to the government of President Hamid Karzai -- a government which he said was "corrupt." The Taliban is dangerous and growing stronger. But "America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars," he added.
It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.
But in this case, the public was more disturbed than entertained. Indeed, one could see the phenomenon in a number of places in recent weeks: Obama's magic no longer works. The allure of his words has grown weaker.
It is not he himself who has changed, but rather the benchmark used to evaluate him. For a president, the unit of measurement is real life. A leader is seen by citizens through the prism of their lives -- their job, their household budget, where they live and suffer. And, in the case of the war on terror, where they sometimes die.
In his speech on America's new Afghanistan strategy, Obama tried to speak to both places. It was two speeches in one. That is why it felt so false. Both dreamers and realists were left feeling distraught.
The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself.
I don't understand how you can set a deadline. You know, this is not a football game where there's a clock where the time runs out. To win this war you have to defeat the enemy. How can we say in the beginning that we're going to do that when we don't know what's going to happen?