Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama in Iraq: Summer Blockbuster

The Star is ready, the script written and the supporting cast assembled from the media A-list as the political extravaganza of the summer goes into production. With so much invested on the part of all concerned, can there be any surprises?

The plot of "Obama in Iraq" is foreordained: Scenes of breathless anticipation as the protagonist--young, idealistic but wise beyond his years--undertakes the critical journey, modestly protesting he is there to listen and learn not negotiate ("One president at a time," he says).

Intercut with scenes of Republican scoffers and doubters to heighten the tension. "If Barack Obama believes that visiting Iraq and meeting with commanders will not give him any new perspective," John McCain's spokesman says, "then we can only assume he's going just to smile for the cameras."

Then a montage of waiting Iraqis buzzing with ambivalent excitement: “Every time I see Obama I say: ‘He’s close to us. Maybe he’ll see us in a different way,'" says a government official. “I find Obama very close to my heart.”

But another expresses dread: “It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it. The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”

From then on, the story line is clear. The president-to-be bonds with the troops, charms the commanders and promises to honor their valor while elevating their mission to a higher plane.

"As president," he promises, "I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq."

Finally, smiling scenes with Prime Minister al-Maliki, mingling reassurance with promised firmness about the future: “Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don’t have the resources to try to make it one. True success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future.”

Then, boarding the plane with smiles and waves, the President-to-Be leaves the mise en scene as the music swells, the credits roll and the audience tries to figure out if what they've seen will have any effect on reality whatsoever.

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