Of course, the Obama counterterrorism policy is still a work in progress. As his recent zigzags illustrate, he still hasn’t figured out his stance on some of the larger questions. But, in discussing his plans for Iraq, he has made one key admission: He will listen carefully to the advice of his generals.
You can easily see how this will play out. Obama will enter office with a set of somewhat inchoate instincts about American power and the importance of outsourcing force. These instincts will mesh with the evolving thinking of his top commanders, who have also begun to realize the limitations of an overstretched army and the value of counter-insurgency. And that brings us back to the situation room on Obama’s first day. If he and Petraeus can overcome whatever awkwardness lingers, they will discover a mind meld and an emerging doctrine– a doctrine that looks a lot more like Ronald Reagan than Jimmy Carter.