June 21, 2014

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Welcome To The White House’s Nightmare: Already swamped by domestic and foreign crises, Obama finds that even his self-proclaimed successes are at risk. That’s just about the last thing he needs now. Why do bad things always happen to him? Excerpt:

“American forces will not be returning to combat,” Obama was sure to pledge to the public Thursday, and White House aides insist that this is a limited mission, that the Iraqi government, ultimately, will have to be the ones to repel the forces of the Sunni insurgency and mend the broken country. Still, the move is a tacit acknowledgment that many of the assumptions that Obama and his foreign policy team made about the world have proven to be incorrect:

That without the leverage of U.S. military power in the country, Iraqi leaders would pursue political change that wouldn’t leave Sunnis alienated and antagonized and that its security forces could counter internal threats;
That Afghanistan would be stable enough for the U.S. to end that war and depart with confidence the government can keep the nation on a stable path;
That the U.S. could pursue a “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia—but then watched his troops take Crimea and threaten the rest of Ukraine;
That the civil war in Syria could somehow be contained within its borders—and could reach a resolution without American intervention.

More than anything, these events and others have served as a rebuke to Team Obama’s worldview that a new generation of leadership could move on from both the Clinton-era and Bush-era policies. Both of those administrations were more hawkish and aggressive about the exercise of American power, whether it was to intercede in regional conflicts in the Balkans or take down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Disdainful of much of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, Obama and his close-knit circle of advisers, on the other hand, talked about engaging Iran diplomatically, using sanctions to punish bad actors, “pivoting” to Asia, and neutralizing the threat of terrorism more bloodlessly through the use of drones. They viewed American power in terms of limits. This was a president, after all, who opposed the U.S. “surge” that arguably stabilized Iraq to the point where Obama could pull the troops out.

Yet here was Obama on Thursday using the language of presidents past such as John Kennedy and George W. Bush, talking of sending “advisers” into a global hot spot and warning of the need to deny “safe haven” to terrorist groups. “Right now, this is the moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said—something that sounded So 10 Years Ago.

Or, you know, maybe that 10 Years Ago stuff was ahead of its time. . . .