In terms of analysis, Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch thought the president “impressed, as always” (not a universally held opinion). But as to the plan, Lynch found it not “satisfying analytically.” The central tension, again: If the president really believes this war is essential to America’s national security, what is to make the timetable stuck?
His direct vow that the U.S. did not seek occupation or endless escalation was well said. But the problem is that such commitments are inherently non-credible. To quote that great IR theorist Drake, we hear you talking boo but we just don’t believe you. I haven’t heard anybody yet say that they believed that Obama would really start drawing down in June 2011, no matter what he says. And yet the strategy depends upon that commitment being credible, because that is what is supposed to generate the urgency for local actors to change.