Still, a desire to wind down the war quickly, the potential for kickstarting negotiations with the Taliban, and the recent decision by France to pull the plug on its involvement in Afghanistan in 2013 were likely greater influences on the administration's decision-making than creating an applause line for the fall presidential campaign.
Nonetheless, it is striking that the White House appears largely unconcerned about the political fallout from this decision. In 2008, candidate Obama ran on a platform of more fully resourcing the war in Afghanistan -- a stance that was motivated in part by a desire to shield himself from traditional GOP attacks on Democratic national security weakness. Within mere weeks of taking office -- and before even completing a serious review of the mission in Afghanistan -- Obama approved sending 17,000 troops to the war. In December 2009, according to Bob Woodward's account, he announced his intention to surge troops in Afghanistan against what appeared to be his better instincts. It was a decision, again, that appeared motivated, in part, by a desire to avoid charges of ignoring military counsel or not taking seriously enough the threat of jihadist terror. That now seems like a very long time ago -- and a very different Democratic politician.
To be sure, if Obama's State of the Union address -- bookended by reflections on the killing of bin Laden -- is any indication, Obama has not backed down from an inclination to tout his military bonafides. Indeed, the president's 2012 website provides a compelling snapshot into his campaign's mindset about how foreign policy will help their candidate in 2012.
It doesn't actually mention the words "foreign policy."
Rather the focus is on "national security" -- in particular, Obama's commitment to the nation's veterans and a strong military as well as his efforts to rid the world of the threat of loose nukes and al Qaeda terrorists.
Put it all together and we have a rather counterintuitive construct for a presidential candidate: tough enough to pursue and kill those that threaten America, but brave enough to take risks for peace and end America's wars. That such a strategy might work is unusual; that it's even being tried is fascinating indeed. A president running on a platform for ending and winding down America's wars -- fancy that.