Leon Trotsky probably did not quite write the legendary aphorism that “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” But whoever did, you get the point that no nation can always pick and choose when it wishes to be left alone.
Barack Obama, however, never quite realized that truth, and so just declared that “the world is less violent than it has ever been.” He must have meant less violent in the sense that the bad guys are winning and as they do, the violence wanes — sort of like Europe around March 1941, when all was relatively quiet under the new continental Reich.
One of Obama’s talking points in the 2012 campaign included a boast that he had “ended” the war in Iraq by bringing home every U.S. soldier that had been left to ensure the relative quiet and stability after the successful Petraeus surge. In the world of Obama, a war can be declared ended because he said so, given that no Americans were any longer directly involved. (Remind the ghosts of the recently beheaded in now al Qaeda-held Mosul that the war ended there in 2011.)
Iraq is in flames, as is “lead from behind” Libya, as is “red line” Syria, and as are those places where an al Qaeda “on the run” has migrated. Had Obama been commander in chief in 1940, he would have assured us that the wars in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France were “over” — as they were in a sense for those who lost them, but as they were not for those next in line.
Of course, the Maliki government owns most of the blame for the spreading destruction of Iraq. Its retrograde exclusion of Sunnis from meaningful government helped to offer a fertile landscape to a resurgent al Qaeda. Now in extremis he seeks U.S. help. But Maliki’s pathetic past chauvinistic posturing over the status of forces agreement made it easy for Obama to pull out. (Hint to former U.S. clients: never horse-trade with Barack Obama over a needed U.S. military presence by threatening to eject all Americans; he will gladly call your bluff and leave every time.)
What, then, happened to Joe Biden’s boast that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration”? Biden said this after the successful Bush-Petraeus surge (that he had opposed and declared a failure) had ensured a relatively quiet country when Obama assumed office.
We know the predictable Obama script for Afghanistan. He “ended” that conflict too, or at least he will have by 2016. His habit in that accordion war was to contextualize every surge, escalation, or new operation in Afghanistan by promising a date when we would leave or deescalate. Behind the recent quietude in drone missions and the Bergdahl swap, we see Obama at work “ending” the war in the following actions: We talk with the Taliban; we deliver to them their bloodiest cutthroats (captured at a cost in American blood and treasure); and we wink that we will not be so offensive-minded as in the past.
In exchange, the Taliban promise to behave and dial down their barbarism until we “end” the war and are gone. Then, like Saigon in 1975, all hell breaks lose and the executions begin. How odd: we went into a chaotic Libya to stop the killing and were about to go into bloody Syria to stop the killing — and left a quiet Iraq to ensure it.