U.S. Ending the War in Iraq

The Barack Obama of 2011 and the Barack Obama of 2008 don't constantly see eye to eye. In general the presidential vision has overruled the candidate's. But in the case of the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of this year, candidate Obama prevailed over the president.

President Obama wanted to stay longer -- as recently as a few weeks ago was asking the Iraqi government to allow 10,000, then 3,000 troops to remain past New Year's Eve.

But the president ultimately had no choice but to stick to candidate Obama's plan -- thanks, of all things, to an agreement signed by George W. Bush.

What makes this turn of events even more improbable is that Bush initially intended the agreement to do precisely the opposite: to lock the next president into staying in Iraq indefinitely. But back in 2008, Iraqi government officials -- fed up with a seemingly endless U.S. occupation and emboldened by candidate Obama's vow to withdraw most combat troops within 16 months -- insisted on setting a deadline for departure.

"Bush didn't want the date certain for withdrawal at the time; that was forced by the Iraqis," said Daniel Serwer, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

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