In his recent cover story for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg notes that when Barack Obama first entered the White House, with George W. Bush’s long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ongoing, “he was not seeking new dragons to slay.” Just the opposite: He fit the mold, Goldberg argues, of a “retrenchment president” elected to scale back America’s commitments overseas and shift responsibilities to allies. But you could be forgiven for thinking the dragons have stubbornly remained, and even multiplied, on Obama’s watch.
To cite just some recent examples: In October, the president authorized the first sustained deployment of U.S. special-operations forces to Syria to complement his air campaign against the Islamic State. In January, reports emerged that the Obama administration was rethinking its troop drawdown in Afghanistan, given the deteriorating security situation there, and considering sending more troops to Iraq and Syria. The next month, Obama released a defense budget that included an increase of $2.5 billion over the previous year to expand the fight with ISIS to North and West Africa, and billions more for sending heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and other equipment to Eastern and Central Europe to counter Russian aggression. In the past several weeks alone, we’ve learned of Pentagon plans to dispatch military advisers to Nigeria against the jihadist group Boko Haram and to launch an aerial offensive in Libya against the Islamic State. U.S. bombing raids recently killed 150 suspected militants in Somalia and over 40 in Libya. By one measure, in fact, the U.S. military is now actively engaged in more countries than when Obama took office.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Although Obama never presented himself as a pacifist candidate, his 2007-2008 presidential campaign was predicated in part on the promise to end the war in Iraq and properly prosecute the war in Afghanistan. In March 2008, hedeclared of Iraq, “When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war.” Later that year, he listed his first two priorities for making America safer as “ending the war in Iraq responsibly” and “finishing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” The president also promised a foreign policy that relied more on diplomacy and less on military might in his first inaugural address, telling his audience that “our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.” Well before the tumult of the Arab Spring and its aftermath, Obama famously offered to extend a hand to those willing to unclench their fist.
Read more at TheAtlantic.com…