GP: I think Obama cornered himself unnecessarily with the hard and fast troop withdrawal policy. That may have elevated him over Hillary Clinton, but as Iraq has stabilized, his withdrawal policy no longer seems to fit so he's adapted it. (In your latest article, you talked about a think tank which has close ties to Obama and has argued against any timetable for withdrawal pushing instead for conditional engagement and that seems to be the way Obama is heading. Explain conditional engagement.) Conditional engagement means you don't threaten to withdraw unless things reach certain benchmarks, and instead you engage with the Iraqi government and use leverage to get them to perform better. It basically says conditions are more important than engaging or disengaging. (Do you think Obama can present his new policy in a way that doesn't appear to be him changing his mind?) It's difficult because we live in a culture where changes in positions are seen as weaknesses. I think he'll have to aggressively reply to criticisms. (How can Obama continue to be explicit about his 16-month withdrawal plan?) I have the same question. It seems as if he's contradicting himself, he can't maintain both of these policies.
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