The second omission is the more intriguing — and, in a sense, the more ominous. Whatever the U.S. might do, the president said, will make no difference in the absence of “a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities.”

The elephant in the room, unmentioned by Obama, is what happens if Iraq’s leaders — or the rebels — turn out to be uninterested in compromise. In particular, the president never said anything approaching this: “We will under no circumstances permit the terrorists to take control of Iraq.”

Barack Obama is a man who knows how to use words. It’s possible, then, that this omission was intended to prepare us for the worst.