I just took the USMLE Step 1, an exam that all medical students take after the first two years (which are mostly bookwork). Theoretically, the schedule for the final two years of med school are more relaxing. Clinical rotations begin in a couple of weeks; the rigor will vary per rotation. In some rotations, students are insanely busy (in surgery, 90 hours/week busy); in others, there will be more free time. Less bookwork should hopefully mean more free time on the weekends, as well.
What does this mean for my blog? For one, I'm hoping that I can spend more time on the pieces that I write; putting more thought and effort into them. Looking back on some of my posts for the last couple of years, I feel many are rushed and shallow. Not surprising, given that many of them were written at 2:00 am while I'm knee-deep in notes studying for some insane exam. Also, I want the focus of my writing to shift a bit. I want to begin writing more about my experience as a medical student, about my observations and criticisms of the system, and maybe even interesting encounters. I will still write about politics a lot I am sure, but probably not as much. With the primaries over, theres no way I can write about McCain-Obama for five months. Besides, considering that I am becoming a doctor and not a politician, this shift seems appropriate.
This all being said, I want to briefly summarize my thoughts on my two favorite issues. After all, I'm still on vacation!
Iraq: The progress in stabilizing the nation has been incredible lately. I am actually beginning to think that the Iraqi politicians are capable of something. This does not change my opinion that the US needs to remove the bulk of its forces from Iraq as soon as safely possible. The success as of late means that when we withdraw, we should be particular and cautious about it so as to preserve the gains we have made. Long term US military bases in Iraq should be out of the question, and reiterating that point to Iraqis will destroy one of the remaining good reasons for an Iraqi to join the insurgency. My optimism regarding the long term political viability of Iraq remains low, but then again, if Iraq if anything, it is unpredictable.
Afghanistan: Lets put it this way. I am significantly less optimistic about our long-term success in Afghanistan than in Iraq. The people we are fighting seem bored, so much so that they'll be perfectly content fighting NATO forces for the next twenty years if thats what it takes. And unlike Iraq, I feel like it will be difficult to convince many locals (in say Helmand province) that the foreigners are a threat. This because things seem to be based more on tribalism and less on nationalism than even Iraq. Not to mention the difficulties provided by the opium trade. I'd be curious to read about how NATO is planning its long-term strategy in Afghanistan.
2008 Election: My conviction that Obama will beat McCain in November has begun to waver. In my defense, I did have a caveat up front about that prediction - it assumes that Iraq had gone to shit and the US economy had tanked. In fact, neither has happened. McCain still has his work cut out for him, to be sure; Bush is the most unpopular president ever, the GOP is going for a third term, and the war is still very unpopular. McCain still appears to be in better shape than he was a couple of months ago. Also add in the fact that Hillary Clinton has (in my opinion, deliberately) done enormous damage to Barack Obama, who has a whole host of issues to contend with. Obama isn't nearly as strong as he was a couple of months ago. Right now I'd call the contest a 50/50 split. Intrade, however, gives McCain only a 37% chance of winning.