What we did NOT ever see was the candidate wearing a flak jacket, because during his time there he never needed to put one on.
For American viewers this lack of flak jacket, a Holmesian "dog that didn't bark," may have come as a surprise since over the last two years they had repeatedly been told, by the major network news programs, by the New York Times and The New Yorker, and by the Democratic leaders in Congress, that "the war" was being lost, or indeed had been lost. As it happens, last month US casualties reached their lowest level since the '03 invasion. In his remarks during the tour, Mr. Obama recognized the change made "recently," and underscored that such success had come as a surprise to him, as it had as well, he suggested, to President Bush and Senator McCain.
In fact, the inevitability of such success could clearly be seen a year ago, and was explicitly noted then by Mr. Bush. With his trademark eloquence, the President added, "We're kicking al Qaeda's ass in Anbar," referring to the so-called "Wild West" region, the restive province encompassing Fallujah, Tikrit, and that had largely fallen into the control of insurgents and al Qaeda, irrevocably it had been said. Despite such salty language, and the prospect of a new "Mission Accomplished" petard on which Bush might be hoisting himself, the President's declaration was left off the front pages. At the same time, in-theater commander General Petraeus, appearing before Congress, vastly underplayed the change of which he was well aware, yet nonetheless was shamefully hectored and labeled an administration mouthpiece.
The seeds of this success actually took root not one, but two years ago, were planted by a young adaptable Army Captain, and until recently went largely unreported in the US. It is this success that will soon allow a draw-down of forces, or redeployment, always planned, that has been kicked around like a football on a muddy field by politicians from all quarters.
Curiously, the British left-leaning media, who had been so critical of Prime Minister Blair for his support of the 2003 invasion and for his stalwart alliance with "the hated Bush," was quicker to note these changes than the supposedly-impartial New York Times. With Mr. Blair out of office, it was perhaps easier for UK journalists and reporters to recognize that an unstable state situated at the heart of the Middle East was really in no one's interest. The NYT editorial page, in contrast, this winter called for an immediate withdrawal, even at the price, which they deemed not unlikely, of population displacement and division of the country-a description that sounded to many like "a managed ethnic cleansing" with the prospect of genocide.
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