In June 2002, President George W. Bush delivered the graduation speech at West Point. His speech was all about the troops. Seldom did he use the word “I,” a stark difference from Obama’s speech tonight.
While Bush’s comments were delivered to a graduation class, he was talking to soon-to-be warriors and so he spoke of war, and he acknowledged what was ahead, as well as acknowledging that the “threat” of the current war was “unprecedented. By contrast, Obama spoke of the economic cost of the war. Here’s is a portion of President Bush at West Point:
History has also issued its call to your generation. In your last
year, America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy. You
graduate from this Academy in a time of war, taking your place in an
American military that is powerful and is honorable. Our war on terror
is only begun, but in Afghanistan it was begun well. (Applause.)
I am proud of the men and women who have fought on my orders.
America is profoundly grateful for all who serve the cause of freedom,
and for all who have given their lives in its defense. This nation
respects and trusts our military, and we are confident in your
victories to come. (Applause.)
This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain
of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only
for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation’s cause has
always been larger than our nation’s defense. We fight, as we always
fight, for a just peace — a peace that favors human liberty. We will
defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will
preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers.
And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on
Building this just peace is America’s opportunity, and America’s
duty. From this day forward, it is your challenge, as well, and we
will meet this challenge together. (Applause.) You will wear the
uniform of a great and unique country. America has no empire to extend
or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for
ourselves — safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope
for a better life.
In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent.
Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial
capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation. The
attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars
in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and
suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single
tank. The dangers have not passed. This government and the American
people are on watch, we are ready, because we know the terrorists have
more money and more men and more plans.
The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of
radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological
and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology — when
that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a
catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared
this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible
weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or
to harm our friends — and we will oppose them with all our power.
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.
President Obama’s speech tonight was much about Obama:
I opposed the war in Iraq
I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use
of military force…
I have signed a letter of condolence to
the family of each American who gives their life…
read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed…
have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed…
travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets…
I see firsthand the
terrible wages of war…
If I did not think that the security of the
United States and the safety…
I would gladly order every single one of our troops home
I do not make this decision lightly….
I make this decision
because I am convinced that our security is at stake…
I have asked that our
commitment be joined…
I want the Afghan people to understand…
I recognize that there are a range of concerns…
I refuse to set goals that go beyond our
I must weigh all of
I do not have the luxury of
I am mindful of the words of President
I took office the cost of the wars …
committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly…
I will work closely with Congress…
I have made it a central pillar of my foreign policy…
I have spent this
I have prohibited torture and…
I also know that we, as a country,…
refuse to accept the notion…
believe with every fiber of my being…