Is it my imagination, or does the president seem less than sincere and quite to be holding his nose as he manages -- not too competently -- a task, our continuing war efforts, for which he has little heart or aptitude?
Now, in theory, he once had heart for getting us out of Iraq -- and, indeed, he's now claiming that's what he's accomplished. By the end of the month, the 144,000 troops there when he began his term 18 months ago will be down to 50,000. So why does this feel less like progress and more like a ploy?
He's claiming victory, of course. But, confusingly, this is on the basis of the 2008 "surge" -- a tactic Obama has now adopted in Afghanistan -- making it something of a George Bush victory. Except, of course, it's hardly victory at all -- there is no government in Iraq, minimal public services, and, in fact, a continuing war.
Still, as the Times noted yesterday, Iraq is now the "political selling point" for the war in Afghanistan: If we could prevail, however questionably, in Iraq, why not Afghanistan, where, as it happens, we suffered in July the highest casualty toll of the war, and where, I suppose, we would rejoice if we could even questionably claim to be on top.
It seems like a pyramid scheme, or a zero sum game: drawing down the troops in Iraq (this is a notable change of language: "withdrawal," now becomes "drawing down"), merely means filling up Afghanistan with them.
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