In the grand panoply of political promises made and kept by President Obama, this, along with healthcare reform, has to stand out.
I, along with many liberals, believe it took too long, happened too slowly, and that the transfer of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to create a mini-surge there was a foolish idea. But it is also undeniable that Obama promised that combat troops would be out of Iraq, and they are, officially.
It is easy in 2011 to look back and to see where Obama has failed to move the country much leftward. For example, he has maintained and even deepened the American government commitment to human rights abuses in arguing that American citizens can be arrested and detained indefinitely on the flimsiest of evidence, so long as the suspicion remains that the citizens are terrorists.
This, despite being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize essentially for breaking the color barrier of American politics. He could have lived up to that award.
He wasted an awful lot of American political and financial capital bailing out banks that really didn't need bailing out and the expense of average Americans who did.
And even in considering the promises he has kept and the policies he has enacted, we seen a defined centrist strain to the outcomes: healthcare reform, while both welcome and necessary, didn't go far enough in protecting us from the depredations of insurance companies. And the withdrawal from Iraq (and the inevitable withdrawal from Afghanistan) were timed with a cynicism only a Republican could truly appreciate.
Still, in the darkening days of 2011, there is hope. Spurred by the pressures exerted by the Occupy movements, President Obama has begun to finally talk a harder game, a better game. He talks with Americans, not down to them. This demonstrates the symbiotic need of the mediocre to be spurred by the actions of believers, even if the outcome is rarely the one we want, in toto.
At least he seems to be hearing. It's time to raise the volume and make him listen.
Perhaps it will be another promise kept. Perhaps not. But we ought to make him make that promise.