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Afghanistan Speech A Defining Moment For Obama

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Afghanistan Speech A Defining Moment For Obama

Afghanistan Speech A Defining Moment For Obama

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Next Tuesday, President Obama is expected to layout his plans for Afghanistan in a primetime address.

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr sees echoes of the past and the choices the president faces.

DANIEL SCHORR: As Korea became Truman's war and Vietnam became Johnson's War, so Afghanistan becomes Obama's war. There have been nine solemn sessions of military and civilian advisers, bridging differences about the way ahead, at least for now. And the president will address the nation in his primetime speech as a reluctant but committed leader. The papered-over differences between military and civilian, between open-ended and tied to performance, between counterterrorism and counterinsurgency are apparent in the various leaks and briefings that have dotted the path toward the new strategy.

It will take months to get the planned reinforcements in place, and more months to train Afghan troops and police, and still more months to deal with the wave of corruption. And all this time, the Taliban and al-Qaida will not be sitting still. One defense official was quoted as saying, we have to start showing progress in six months on the political side or the military side or that's it. There are ways out if our troops find the mission impossible - off ramps they're called in one document. But it is inconceivable that American forces would just go away if the going gets too tough. Surely, we would hear a call for a military surge to support our troops.

War leader Obama is likely to find, as President Johnson did in Vietnam, that the pressure for escalation is great. The understanding among Obama advisors about the conditional employment of troops may not stand up under heavy enemy pressure. Reluctantly donning the toga of war leader, President Obama may be nearing the defining moment of his presidency so far.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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