by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

Last Friday, President Obama went to Camp Lejeune. He spoke in front of US Marines, but his real audience was his left-wing campaign supporters.

And his carefully worded speech – its parsing of language worthy of Bill Clinton – may go down in history as his “Mission Accomplished” moment. We’ll see who leaves Iraq when.

During last year’s presidential campaign, it was evident that Obama wouldn’t keep his promises to his leftist base to pull our troops out rapidly.

While he benefited greatly from the troop surge he opposed – which handed him a convalescent Iraq – he’s learning that reality trumps rhetoric.

Forcefully delivered, his speech to the Marines served up more waffles than the International House of Pancakes.

Consider his big sound bite: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” What does that mean?

Will the 50,000 troops he intends to leave in Iraq, the trainers and maintainers, be forbidden to defend themselves? Are they just going to hang out? If terrorists or the Iranians skunk us, are we just going to ask for more?

The enemy gets a say, too. The situation on the ground will determine when combat operations end. Obama’s just going to call them something else.

In the immortal phrasing of Ol’ Bill, it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

As for Obama’s claim that “I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months,” just watch.

We’re not going to leave 50,000 support troops in Iraq without combat units to protect them. We’ll just ban the word “brigade” and call our shooters “task forces.”

The reality all along has been that Obama can’t cut and run.

He began campaigning for a second term on Inauguration Day and he’s not going to let himself be blamed for “losing” Iraq.

Meanwhile, he’s praying that progress continues in Baghdad.

As for yesterday’s boilerplate nonsense that “The end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East,” hey, if it does, thank George W. Bush. History has a wicked sense of humor.

Of course, the rhetoric’s necessary. Obama had to lecture the Marines to placate the angry extremists who put him in office.

The fundamental purpose of the speech was to hide the 50,000 residual troops in plain sight: “It’s OK, see? They’re not combat troops.” Obama’s scared as a naked sheriff at a moonshiners’ convention.

He piggybacked on the left’s hatred of “Bush’s war” in Iraq, but had to show his tough-on-security bones during the campaign.

A strategic novice, he declared Afghanistan the good war. Now it’s his. And while Iraq looks increasingly like a success story, Afghanistan’s going south. Iraq’s the prize, Afghanistan’s the booby prize.

Success in Afghanistan’s a one-off, while even a half-baked democracy in Iraq changes the Middle East. And Pakistan’s the monster under the White House bed. In artilleryman’s parlance, Obama’s speech to the Marines was all flash, no bang.

He’s struggling to appear decisive while carving out maximum wiggle room. And in the modern tradition of Democratic presidents, he just wishes these foreign conflicts would go away. But they won’t.

Welcome to reality, Mr. President. ExileStreet

courtesy NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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