Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/1/09-The Afghanistan Speech

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. In about an hour, the President will address the nation from the West Point Military Academy to outline his new strategy for Afghanistan. The speech will be happening after press time, but don't worry! We will be live-tweeting the event. Follow the Twitter feed here.

AFGHANISTAN: Prior to tonight's speech, I thought I would give my general impressions of the expected announcement. For one, it's important to look beyond the headline that Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The benefit of taking time to figure things out is that Obama seems to have come up with some sort of an exit strategy. The troops will be rushed to Afghanistan over the next six months to expedite and improve the training of Afghan forces. He will also help secure major cities against threats from Taliban insurgents. The strategy calls for the beginning of a U.S. draw down in 2011, pending conditions on the ground. At the very least, it seems like we have some idea of what we're trying to do there. And sure, this is a hell of a lot better than what John McCain would have done.

But I am still deeply, deeply skeptical of this decision. I'm just not sure whether it's worth the sacrifice of 30,000 additional soldiers to try and salvage a war that looks increasingly unwinnable. There are two historical facts that are burning in my head right now: 1. No foreign country has ever won a war in Afghanistan, and 2. The more a country invests itself in nation building, the harder it is for that country to withdraw.

I don't know what the right solution is in Afghanistan. I don't think there is one. The Bush administration put off the tough decisions, and left the Obama administration a pretty precarious situation. At a certain point though, we can't continue these nation building experiments indefinitely. It is not in the strategic interests of the United States.

HEALTH CARE: The Senate got absolutely nowhere on health care reform today. In the Senate, amendments can be brought up two ways: either by unanimous consent, or by filing cloture. If you file cloture, you have to wait 30 hours for a cloture vote, you have to find 60 votes to cut off debate, and then you need an additional 30 hours before you vote on the amendment itself. Knowing that forcing cloture votes will slow up the process, Republicans have yet to agree to any unanimous consent agreements to consider amendments, even their own. As a result, we're in a bit of a holding pattern. Eventually, Majority Leader Reid can file cloture on the bill itself. So no matter what the GOP does, if Reid can cobble together 60 votes, he can still get the bill passed dilatory tactics notwithstanding.

With no amendments voted on today, the Senate took time to confirm the nomination of Jacqueline Nguyen to be U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California by a vote of 97-0.

THE HOUSE: The House gaveled back into session today and voted on a variety of suspension bills. They'll get to important legislation on Thursday.

Make sure you follow our Twitter feed during the President's speech!

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