A conservative reader writes:
Note Obama's recent embrace of Israel's attack on Syria's nuclear facility (an instance of pure Bush preemption doctrine); and his strong insinuation that he might do the same to Iran. Note his support for the FISA reform bill that will pass the Senate on July 8: Although he criticizes immunity, he supports the warrantless surveillance mechanism that is the essence both of the new bill and of the president's old supersecret Terrorist Surveillance Program, which this bill would prospectively and perhaps permanently legitimize. (Incidentally, if the TSP was unconstitutional as Obama once argued, the procedure cannot be saved by legislation: Feingold is right about that).
Note also Obama's promise to Iraq's foreign minister not to do anything that would jeopardize current gains or Iraqi security;
taken together with his commitment to withdrawing as fast as such circumstances permit, there is now no practical difference between Obama's prospective Iraq policy and the Petraeus plan embraced by the President. In essence, there is now little practical difference between the candidates on national security issues -- but that still leaves a lot of room to create the appearance of difference in the arena of rhetoric and political fantasy.
Another way of looking at it, of course, is that Obama is simply responding to events on the ground, has never been a pacifist or non-interventionist, and has to operate within the empirical boundaries of the legacy he's responding to. In office, the kind of pragmatism Obama represents will chart a gradual, not radical, course away from the current impasse. That's why I'm increasingly interested in how Obama describes the ultimate goals of his Iraq strategy. There is a real difference between an attempt to retain control over an Arab Muslim state in the Middle East, and finding a way to leave it without fomenting a hotter stage in its civil war.