Now that it looks almost certain that Barack Obama will make the mistake of escalating our involvement in Ukraine (here’s the latest tell), further shredding any sort of plausible commitment to peace and throwing in his lot with delusional neocons and “centrist” D.C. pundits, I figured I’d make a prediction. Maybe it won’t come to pass, but I think it would make a lot of sense if it does. And that is that, within one year of his leaving office, the very hawkish pundits decrying Obama’s every (perceived) failure of will and credibility will be praising his name. And they’ll be right to do it: after all, you could make a very compelling argument that Obama has been as hawkish as a president could be, operating under these constraints. After all, had Obama said no to the Libya campaign, it would not have ever happened. And I continue to believe that, if he’d wanted to, he could have avoided direct involvement with ISIS by citing his own unlikely election win as evidence that Americans have no desire to have any more involvement in Iraq. That argument would, I think, have been very difficult for opponents to rebuke. Instead, we got a war speech that was heavy on moral outrage but light on any kind of substance.

But while Obama has hardly satisfied all the hawks’ desires, he’s absolutely gone as far as he could without seriously damaging his presidency. If you wanted to be cynical, you argue that Obama was always more hawkish than Clinton, just more sophisticated about how to sell it to the left. Clinton sucks at that, still reads from right-wing hymnals full of nationalistic patriotic drivel, as though a Latina from South San Francisco is going to do anything but roll her eyes at that. The Obama method of Public Agony Over This Difficult Choice, with the unspoken corollary that he’s the president and he knows more than you do and it’s a hard decision so if you disagree with this, politely get lost, has worked so much better. It’s not all that much a stretch to read all this stuff cynically. I don’t entirely believe this conspiracy theory–I think it has much more to do with legacy, advisors and his questionable political strategy of placating those “centrist” pundits–but it does offer a more robust explanation of the facts than anything I can come up with.

In any event, the hawks will ultimately realize all this, I think. Given that Obama’s win was largely due to Clinton’s unapologetic Iraq War vote, it would have been plausible indeed to see Obama avoid these sorts of things as a matter of course. Certainly the public would have backed him on this. Instead, he’s gotten the U.S. involved in virtually every news-making foreign crisis of his presidency, with the exception of the Iran revolts. I actually can’t wait for the Obama era to end, if only to read all the memoirs to understand exactly why it wound up this way. I have no doubt that Obama’s interventions will be used to try to tie up a prospective Clinton Administration, with the possible ironic result that Democrats will be much more skeptical of someone many know primarily from her hawkish record (and there’s her relative lack of talent at selling her base on these interventions) rather than someone introduced as an Iraq opponent. Who knows? All I know is that Rich Lowry is an idiot:

We believe in the power of 21st-century international norms. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes in the power of lies and brute force, and implicitly asks, in the spirit of Josef Stalin, “How many divisions do international norms have?”

Breaking international norms, lies, the use of brute force to affect political change. These are serious breaches of etiquette to be opposed. Guess he opposed the Iraq War then, right?


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