So it looks like the long awaited Obama speech on Afghanistan is coming up next week. A smart Pentagon observer I know thinks the increase in troop strength will be about 25,000 but there will be all kinds of reviews and metrics used to judge progress. It won't be the 40,000 that Gen. Stanley McChrystal advocated, and it won't be the withdrawal that The Nation seems to want but it will be the work of a president who doesn't want to lose Afghanistan on his watch and doesn't want an open-ended commitment. If you're speechwriter Jon Favreau trying to eat turkey with your laptop this weekend, these are the elements you probably want in:
1. Why We went to Afghanistan in the first place. A useful reminder of 9/11, the Taliban and their guests, Al Qaeda.
2. What's working and what's not.
3. The Karzai government. You have to walk a fine line between calling it a democratic government and saying they need to do more.
4. Make it clear that we're not staying forever but we're staying long enough to finish the job. See Bush in Iraq, circa 2005.
5. Explain how we'll pay for it.
6. Explain what the plan is and how it's not just military but also involves building up Afghan institutions, training Afghan army, etc.
7. Salute the troops and their sacrifice.
8. Invoke the allies. Make it clear we're not alone.
9. Make it clear that the whole region depends on this too, including Pakistan.
10. Don't promise Afghanistan will be a perfect democracy, only that it'll be relatively stable and won't be an Al Qaeda base.
11. Don't promise the Taliban will be vanquished because they may end up in the government before it's all over.
In an age of PowerPoint and YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the Oval Office address is still one of the great presidential tools--a chance for a directness and clarity without fanfare. It's a drama without a soundtrack. You get maximum TV impact and because it's short all the networks take it without fussing.