Obama’s recent announcements on future military policy in Afghanistan and Iraq came after a well-publicized deep think. He wasn’t going to come to some snap formulation, but ponder deep and hard with real experts. The results are a little disappointing. Here was a BIG opportunity. He missed it. The end result will be protracted and costly insurgency / counter-insurgency and eventual withdrawal with tail firmly between legs.
What could he have done? What he should have said:
Complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. We no longer seek to impose, or actively facilitate, any kind of political system or institutions in any other country. That is the business of the people of that country alone.
However, we have shown that we can act decisively in deposing regimes that pose a clear and present danger to the United States. In Afghanistan we successfully, and at the cost of few American lives, deposed the Taliban who actively assisted Al Qaeda in their terror campaign on the United States. In Iraq, regardless on your view on the rights and wrongs, we deposed the regime, and its leader was captured, tried and convicted.
The United States clearly sets out its intention from this point forward. Any country that poses a direct threat to the United States, either through state directed military means, or through the active support for those that threaten terrorism against the United States, shall be viewed as a clear and present danger. Where America strikes it will be decisive. We will depose the regime responsible, we will pursue any individuals wherever they may flee. That is the Obama doctrine.
A withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, otherwise seen as weak, thus becomes a stronger shift in policy and statement of intent. There is a meaningful veiled threat against Iran and the Yemen. Policy objectives would be matched by realistic military abilities. It’s all win. It’s a shame.