I was really struck by the lede to this Anthony Shadid article:

BAGHDAD -- There was an exchange some months ago about the notion of time that said a little bit about Iran, something about Iraq, but probably most about the United States.

At the sidelines of a United Nations meeting, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, chatted with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The American military had left Iraqi cities -- thankfully, in the eyes of many here. By Aug. 31, it was supposed to bring its numbers down to 50,000. The dates had less to do with the prowess of the Iraqi police in Sadr City and more with priorities elsewhere: shifting resources to Afghanistan, weariness with a costly war never quite understood at home, and the unpredictability of midterm elections in, say, southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Americans planted a tree in Iraq, Mr. Zebari recalled Mr. Ahmadinejad telling him, with the stilted sympathy of sarcasm. They watered that tree, pruned it and cared for it. "Ask your American friends," he said, shaking his head, "why they're leaving now before the tree bears fruit."

We're leaving because we're not imperialists, of course, but nevertheless we're leaving Iraq before we should. And of course, we're planting ourselves in another country, Afghanistan, for no good reason at all, and with chance of making it a better place, or a safer one. On the one hand, Ahmadinejad seems like a complete nutbag -- for proof, read Jon Lee Anderson's excellent report from Iran in The New Yorker. But on the other hand, he seems to understand America's weaknesses fairly well.