Upon closer examination, the Obama Iraq announcement turns out to be more clear-cut and less in need of analysis than I’d initially thought:
What threw me off initially was that he’d slightly pushed back his already somewhat-murky promise to withdraw “combat forces” to a 19-month schedule rather than a 16-month schedule. That’s a little disappointing, but the precise calendar was always much less important than the question of what happens next. And here the news is extremely good. As Spencer Ackerman writes:
For the first time as president, Obama attempted to resolve ambiguities about a full withdrawal along the Dec. 2011 framework that the Iraqi government insisted upon in last year’s Status of Forces Agreement, committing himself to its mechanisms. Some on the left have wondered warily why Obama hadn’t made such a public commitment. Those worries will probably end with this line: “Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”
Larry Korb observes:
By strengthening our commitment to leave, and setting an earlier deadline for the end of combat operations, Obama has also taken an essential step in building trust with the Iraqi government and people. Even after the signing of the SOFA, some Iraqis publicly doubted whether the United States would leave the country. Obama’s announcement today is a definitive sign that he does not intend to keep forces in Iraq indefinitely, and will work toward fully turning over our responsibilities to the Iraqi government and security forces.
This is huge, and calls for some Rancid:
Now if only he could fix the banking system.