It is now clear that President Obama has no understanding at all of soldiers or of waging war. He made that clear in his speech on Afghanistan before the Corps of Cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point. It’s partly a generational thing: he was born at the end of the baby boom and was educated at a liberal Ivy League university. For these people, going to war is the most horrible idea one can contemplate.
Obama thought his opening promise to pull American forces out of Afghanistan would be wildly popular with the cadets. After all, it would have been brought an ovation from students of his generation at Columbia and Harvard. At both universities, the prevailing ideology was a reflexive anti-Americanism. Whatever happened in the world, America was at fault and every war was Vietnam, doomed to failure. One was far more likely to find hard-line Marxists in the Columbia or Harvard milieu than an officer cadet. Obama is unlikely even to have met someone training to join the armed forces during his formative university years.
I can describe Obama’s environment quite precisely because I was a student at Brown University in that era. Brown, like Columbia and Harvard, is an Ivy League school where Leftist ideology is unquestionable dogma. In my time I was the top Army officer cadet at Brown University. In fact, I was the only Army officer cadet at Brown. Out of 6,000 students there were six of us enrolled in the Army, Marine and Navy officer programmes. The attitude among most of my fellow students – and many went on to high positions in government and the media – was one of utter contempt.
On military training days I would wear my army uniform while walking through campus to take the bus to the training site, and students would yell obscenities out their windows as I went by. Brown students considered soldiers to be idiots and gutter scum. When it comes to snobbery, the American Ivy League elites beat even the British upper classes – and that says a lot.
Back to the West Point speech. If Obama had known anyone in the military as a young man, he would know that the prospect of going to a war is not what scares a soldier most. The thing that really scares soldiers is being sent to a war and then not being allowed to win. At no time did Obama say that we were fighting in Afghanistan to attain victory. Instead, he offered a promise to pull out, coupled with a vague statement of intent. If he wanted to demoralise his audience, he could hardly have chosen a better way to go about it. As I say, he really doesn’t understand soldiers.