Joe Klein, Time Magazine:
There is no "victory" in Iraq, nor will there be. There is something resembling stability, but that might not last, either. There is a semblance of democracy, but that may dissolve over time, or in the next few months, into a Shi'ite dictatorship--which, if not well-run, will yield to the near-inevitable military coup. Yes, Saddam is gone--and that is a good thing. The Kurds have a greater measure of independence and don't have to live in fear of mass murder, which is a good thing, too. But Iran has been aggrandized. Its Iraqi allies, especially Muqtada Sadr's populist movement, remain a force that will play a major role--arguably one more central than ours--in shaping the future of the country. This attempt by western neo-colonialists--that is, the Bush Administration--to construct an amenable Iraq will most likely end no better than previous western attempts have. Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation--the carnage and tragedy it wrought--will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own.
It is the way of the world that Barack Obama's announcement today of the end of the combat phase in Iraq, and the beginning of a 16-month period of advice and support for the Iraqi security forces before U.S. troops leave in 2011, will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush's juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce--six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely--the "end of combat operations." But celebration is not appropriate now. What is appropriate is what the President did: promise that amends will be made to those whose lives were shattered and that their service in an unnecessary cause will be honored. What is also appropriate now is a mournful colloquy on America's place in the world--and how our natural leadership among nations, a consequence of the freedom that Bush misconstrued, is best utilized in the future.
I got to say, the President’s speech was good, but the crowd’s reaction was even better. This was not a tame, laid back, polite VFW crowd, but a raucous, rowdy, full-bore, full-on Disabled American Vets crowd.
And I liked it.
UPDATE: 4:39pm Pacific: Why the MSNBC Video cut things short at 30:50, I don't know. When the White House Video is put online, I'll put it up.
UPDATE: August 4, 2010: It took 'em long enough, but here it is.