In the case of Iraq, in particular, Obama will face an especially difficult choice between equally objectionable options. He is certainly identified with the case for pulling out of Iraq altogether. And yet, unless the nearly unanimous judgment of both the military and diplomatic communities is mistaken, doing so will unsettle the international situation there in ways potentially as alarming as they are unforeseeable. From Egypt to Iran, the political and military consequences are almost bound to be enormous, and coping with them, militarily and otherwise, is likely to be the work of decades.
Yet it seems almost impossible, simply as a political matter, for Obama to reverse himself and decide to continue the war in Iraq. His word on the matter is on the line, and going back on it would inflict a deep wound on his credibility. No president can well afford to lose his reputation as a man of his word.
So we are probably in for a period of shuffling, in which two steps back in Iraq, such as reducing our troop levels there, are followed by one step forward, such as offering further support, in one way or another, to the Iraqi government. Whether this can be shaped into a coherent policy is very much in doubt, but it seems inevitable that Washington is going to try.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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