By RALPH PETERS
President Obama went to Camp Lejeune. He spoke in front of US Marines… And his carefully worded speech… may go down in history as his "Mission Accomplished" moment.
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? 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."
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.
The fundamental purpose of the speech was to hide the 50,000 residual troops in plain sight:
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.