The thrill is back, at least in Chris Matthews’ leg. The host of MSNBC’s Hardball provided live analysis of Barack Obama’s speech in Afghanistan last night — no, wait, that’s not really accurate. Matthews, along with Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Politico’s Jim VandeHei provided a cheering section that only lacked a Bidenesque most-brilliant-thing-in-the-last-500-years claim. Oh, wait:
“I imagine being a soldier over there — this is what you want to hear,” Matthews said, as if he was wearing military fatigues.
Matthews also likened the leadership of President Obama to that of Henry V of England.
“It was right out of Henry V actually, a touch of Barry, in this case, in the night for those soldiers risking their lives over there,” Matthews said.
“Well that’s great stuff. I was so proud of the President there, I must say. This has nothing to do with partisanship; this is the Commander-in-Chief meeting with the troops,” Chris Matthews gushed on his program today.
Actually, I believe the comparison was to William Shakespeare’s Henry V and not the historical king, and Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, one of the most well-known martial rallying speeches in literature. The most famous part of the speech is the end:
- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
- For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
- Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
- This day shall gentle his condition:
- And gentlemen in England now a-bed
- Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
- And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
- That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
However, Matthews is apparently unfamiliar with the play or the history behind it. The English army was outnumbered by the French at Agincourt, but Henry V led them into an attack anyway, winning a stunning defeat over the French knights, nearly wiping them out. Obama’s speech was intended to tell the army that the war was almost over, and that the need for large battles had all but passed. As Andrew Malcolm noticed, it never once uses the word “victory.” It’s almost the diametric opposite of the St. Crispin’s Day speech; some even consider it Obama’s “mission accomplished” moment.
Not the Taliban, however, who spoiled Obama’s end-of-war speech with a reminder that it was still on as far as they’re concerned:
Less than two hours after President Obama left Afghanistan airspace on Wednesday, explosions shook the capital and the Interior Ministry said a suicide attacker had exploded a large bomb at the gates of a compound used by foreigners in the east of Kabul, killing seven Afghans. …
Stephen Mackenzie, an American who works in Afghanistan and lives at the Green Village where he is also a security warden for the compound, said by e-mail that two large explosions had hit the area right outside the compound and some rocket-propelled grenades had struck nearby.
“Lots of small-arms fire,” he said.
That highlights the worry that arose when Obama made his speech:
The summer fighting season is about to begin in Afghanistan, and suicide bombings in Kabul last month hinted at the Taliban’s determination to make the U.S. exit from the country as painful as possible.
“I’m concerned there’s a little too much potential chatter about this ending the war,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “There’s no ending of the war or conflict in this agreement. This is simply cementing in ongoing U.S. support.”
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an adviser to the Pentagon, said that the strategic partnership would do little to convince the Taliban that the U.S. is committed to Afghanistan.
“The whole idea that you can issue some kind of statement or document that’s going to convince the Taliban and the region that our strategic agreement is serious is a fantasy,” he said. “The reality is there are enough doubts and enough uncertainty, that the only way to prove we’re going to [stay] is to stay.”
What would Henry V do?