Monday, November 30, 2009

Afghanistan Speech Plan

Notes for the President
Tomorrow evening, President Obama will address the nation from the US Military Academy at West Point. After three months of deliberating with his “war cabinet,” the President will outline his decision, which is presumed to include sending 30 – 35 thousand additional troops to Afghanistan. Word has been leaking for weeks (from sources including the military) about the proposed strategy, and the sides for and against it are already well developed.

We know that President Obama can deliver a great speech, but I thought I would offer up a few ideas on how to make communicate this crucial communication with maximal effectiveness. Here is what his address should contain:

The Background. It’s laudable that the President has adopted a stance of (at least attempting to) not dwell on the past. The answers are ahead of us, not behind. Yet, it’s important to explain why we are where we are. Not to be condescending, but the President should even consider using a map. Show the region, show the threats, show the opportunities. I know he’s been dinged for being “professorial,” but my view is that it’s a good thing. We have a President, a Commander-in-Chief, smart enough to give these important lessons to the public.

The Goal. Some have challenged the President to accept the military’s recommendations and move on. It’s a simplistic plea. A military strategy must support public policy goals. The question of why we are there and what we must accomplish in the name of national security must be answered first, clearly and plainly. Only after the planned outcomes have been stated can we decide on which strategies (military, diplomatic or both) are appropriate.

The Decision Process. As a corollary to the points above, it’s worth mentioning how this decision was reached. There has been criticism of the three months it has taken to debate the request for more troops. In the previous administration, many decisions came quickly, from the gut. Now, we have a more analytical, deliberative and inclusive decision making process. It needs to be explained. Moreover, the role of the military must be clarified – our civilian government should never be just a rubber stamp.

The Options. After hearing about how the information was gathered and analyzed, we should receive an overview (not the details) of the options the President had to grapple with before settling on his final decision. What were the pluses and minuses, and the potential consequences?

The Path Forward and Back. After laying out the options, make the case for the decision. What does it mean of us, for the people of Afghanistan, for the balance of power in the region? What are the consequences of increased involvement, when will we know when we’ve achieved our goals and how do we leave without causing more harm than good? And, what responsibilities will the world community shoulder? Can we count on a fairer distribution of the burden?

Acknowledge Other Worries. We all know of the disastrous experience the Russians had in Afghanistan. We know the parallels to Viet Nam are many. The President must address the concerns over another potentially bloody quagmire and how his strategy has the best chance of success. In addition, he should acknowledge the costs (human and financial), and the possible impact on the economy and on our security. He should also make the case that the seriousness of other issues – financial reform, jobs, healthcare, energy, climate change – means we must tackle our problems simultaneously, not sequentially.

Conclude with a Rallying Point. At the end, the President needs to seal the deal. That is, obtain the support of the majority of the American public. He needs to convince us that it’s time to get behind his decision and, most important, the brave men and women tasked with carrying it out. And, following the speech, surrogates from all sectors of society should be mobilized to reinforce the President’s message.

The content of the President’s speech must be spot-on but so must the tone. He must be perceived as truthful, authentic, realistic and reassuring. I’ll be tuning in at 8 o’clock tomorrow night to watch some history.

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1 comment:

Jeanette said...

Splendid ideas, I have been wondering how to start writing my speech which is due in next month, thanks for that complete resource. I will be looking forward for more interesting things.

Informative speeches