“There will be no such thing as victory in Iraq,” George Packer writes in the New Yorker, “but the next President, if he remains nimble, may be able to keep the damage under control.” Packer argues that the dramatic improvement since the surge poses a problem for Barack Obama, whose proposal to withdraw troops in 16 months helped him seal the nomination, but is outdated.
A strategy of “conditional engagement" advocated by Obama's close advisers couples troop draw-downs with political progress in Iraq and a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy, to avoid squandering gains. "The same pragmatism that prompted him last month to forgo public financing of his campaign will surely lead him, if he becomes president, to recalibrate his stance on Iraq," Packer writes. "The question is whether Obama will publicly change course before November." (Read more Barack Obama stories.)