"And the war will end by the end of next year . . . "
In the elusive search for an Obama Doctrine, that struck me as a telling phrase.
I heard the president deliver it when he and British Prime Minister David Cameron took questions from reporters.
Obama was speaking of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. "Our troops will continue to come home, and the war will end," he said.
In fact, the war is unlikely to end. It may accelerate as the Taliban seizes its chance to attack without facing American troops.
To say the war will end because U.S. troops are gone is like the toddler who imagines no one can see him when he closes his eyes.
But it fits with the foreign policy of a leader who is on track, astonishingly, to preside over a sharp turn inward.
Astonishingly because when he ran in 2008, Obama presented himself as a man who would lead the United States into a new era of international engagement, idealism and cooperation.
"We are heirs to a struggle for freedom," he told a vast and enthusiastic crowd in Berlin in July 2008.
"We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again."
Now, as the president told interviewers from the New Republic at the outset of his second term, "I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations."
The president is negotiating trade-opening agreements in Asia and Europe. He has maintained U.S. support for global health initiatives such as the fight against AIDS.
He has traveled widely, negotiated a nuclear arms reduction with Russia, ramped up drone strikes and proclaimed a U.S. "pivot" toward the Pacific region.
But the dominant impression among foreign officials is of a policy of retrenchment. They see a steady reduction in the size of U.S. armed forces that will mean less ability to intervene and influence.
They watched Obama withdraw all troops from Iraq, failing to negotiate an agreement that would have preserved some U.S. role in that now-unraveling country.
They see him preparing to withdraw most - or all, his spokesman has said; the size of any residual force has not been announced - troops from Afghanistan.