- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Forty-three years after Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that the war in Vietnam was essential to the stability of Asia, President Obama will use the same venue to pitch his plan to salvage the war in Afghanistan.

The president will unveil his new strategy for the Afghanistan war in an 8 p.m. address to Americans on Dec. 1. The top general in Afghanistan wants an additional 40,000 troops, but military officials expect the president will deploy about 35,000, starting next year.

Mr. Obama and his top military and national security advisers have held 10 meetings on the war. The president says the American people will support his strategy once they understand the perils of losing the war.

The White House would release no other details of the West Point speech and would not say if uniformed cadets will serve as a backdrop for the president.

The military academy in New York, the oldest of the United States’ five service academies, has been the site of many important speeches by presidents and military leaders.

In 1966, as President Lyndon Johnson was expanding the war in Vietnam, his vice president addressed cadets at the school’s commencement.

“Vietnam challenges our courage, our ingenuity, and our ability to persevere,” Mr. Humphrey said. “If we can succeed there — if we can help sustain an independent South Vietnam, free to determine its own future — then our prospects, and the prospects for free men throughout Asia, will be bright indeed.”

Before the war ended in 1975, 30 of the 579 graduating cadets who heard the speech had been killed in Vietnam; more than 100 were injured. The Class of 1966 had the highest Vietnam War casualty rate of any West Point class.

President Bush delivered a seminal speech at the academy in June 2002, in which he laid out what would come to be known as the “Bush Doctrine.”

“We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world,” Mr. Bush said.

“And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.”

Six months after the Japanese killed more than 2,300 people in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. George Marshall’s addressed the West Point class of 1942.

“We’re determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, and of overwhelming power on the other.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president is placing heavy emphasis on how the United States eventually will withdraw from Afghanistan even as he plans to announce a troop increase.

“We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We’re not going to be there another eight or nine years,” the spokesman said at the White House.

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