Obama's key contention, as underscored by Packer, is that Iraq is "the bad war that we have to end if we want to win the good war in Afghanistan and turn around the economy at home."Let's take a look at these two countries:
- Afghanistan is a pile of rocks, strategic to the US only for the things we don't want it to be, i.e., a base for international terrorism, a major opium producer, a general blight on the public conscience.
- Iraq is floating on a lake of oil, the single commodity most vital to the operation of the Western economy. It sits next to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, three countries also swimming in oil. A stable Iraq secures our oil supply by providing stability to the US's "friends" and deterring Iran, which would like to achieve hegemony over the oil to put the squeeze on the US. There isn't a more strategic spot on the face of the Earth, with the possible exception of the Panama Canal.
Maybe it's just that they think the War On Drugs is our major strategic priority. That sounds like an excellent reason to sink a couple of extra brigades into the middle of nowhere.
Update: I posted a somewhat amplified, snarkier version of this on the Matt Yglesias post.