Barack Obama is in a box. He has declared, for a long time now, that we should get out of Iraq in 16 months.
But there is nothing magical about the number of months for moving troops, or shifting the remainder of territorial control to the Iraqis. The only thing special about 16 months is that Barack Obama has used that figure for so long.
Now his generals have come to him and said that he should pay attention to the conditions on the ground, and not to some arbitrary spot on the calendar.
Obama should have come out on November 5, the day after his election, and said that the target is 16 months from January 20, 2009, but that if we could get out sooner, we would. And furthermore, he should have claimed Iraq as a US ally.
But none of that was possible, because Obama is hemmed in on all sides by his supporters on the left, the troops on the right, reality on the ground, and his own public insistence. He can't be wrong, he can't change his mind.
But neither can he change, with his empty words, the reality on the ground in Iraq.
And neither can he change the desire of men who have seen their comrades fall in battle to see their blood mean something.
But the thing he is really unable to change is his own need to be right. He cannot be wrong about the efficacy of the war in Iraq, General Petraeus' surge, or the proper use of military force in foreign policy. To admit that we could be out of Iraq sooner than his 16 months by winning battles than by folding our tents and slithering away would be to admit that he was wrong all along. And with this President, that will never happen.
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