The trap Obama must not be caught in is one of excessive pessimism. Conditions now favor expeditious withdrawal more than they did only a few months ago. But the manner of withdrawal, its pace, and its concomitant diplomacy now require a different cast, and may require an even different one next February and March. None of this means that this war was not a mistake; it does suggest it need not in the medium term be a catastrophe. Petraeus deserves the lion’s share of the credit; luck and time and the self-defeating nihilism of the Jihadists have helped. But Bush and McCain equally merit points for pursuing the surge, even though the metrics pointed to failure. Obama needs to capitalize on these gains, not dismiss them.
Well, let’s unpack all of that. Conditions favor an expeditious withdrawal because . . . why, exactly? We had to withdraw, we were told, because all was lost, it was immoral to sacrifice any more brave Americans for a lost cause, there had been no political progress and nothing further could be gained. But in the face of recent progress, when a chance for success and a good outcome has emerged (acknowledged among the more honest mainstream media observers), we should still leave, and in fact it is more necessary that we should do so?
But that is small potatoes next to the real problem: Obama doesn’t think progress is being made, refuses to acknowledge reality and opposed the surge–which even Obama’s greatest defender can admit was the correct course and likely saved us from a “catastrophe.” That obvious dilemma will not be lost, I am fairly certain, on those not predisposed to explain, justify, and protect Obama from unpleasant realities.
And if Obama fails to “capitalize”–to take advantage of circumstances his opponent helped create and he opposed–is he guilty of only excessive pessimism? Or has he proven himself to be inflexible, unmoved by new facts, unwilling to admit error and divorced from reality? Hmmm, seems like someone said similar things about George W. Bush.