Obama hates war but…

This is still a work in progress.

I’ve been wanting to write this piece for awhile now, comparing how the media portrays Obama’s record on war to his real record as President.

A quick version would go something like this.

Obama hates saying the word war but….doesn’t mind doing it

For example he often cloaks war in euphemisms or in smaller scale, reminding Americans that he is cautious not to repeat Bush’s mistakes.

Obama expanded American airstrikes and other military actions and talked of preventing the massacre as examples of how he talks about war.

President Obama said he was ordering an additional 475 service members to Iraq, bringing the total rushed there to about 1,500 troops. But the president repeatedly promised that the American troops – scores of whom will advise Iraqi forces – “will not have a combat mission.”

Three years ago, President Obama declared “the tide of war is receding.” He would have a hard time making that claim today. 

The pre-emption doctrine, circa 2002, lives in 2014……This is not the first time Mr. Obama has invoked the pre-emption doctrine: It was the fundamental legal justification for most drone attacks and special forces raids. But Wednesday evening, it became part of an expanded mission

When Mr. Obama says the effort “will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist,” he is essentially saying that borders will no longer limit him.

Still Republicans criticized his speech (here’s Charles Krauthammer)

And beyond the strategy’s halfhearted substance is its author’s halfhearted tone. Obama’s reluctance and ambivalence are obvious. This is a man driven to give this speech by public opinion.

continued

You could sense that Obama had been dragged unwillingly into this new unproclaimed war. Which was reminiscent of Obama’s speech five years ago announcing the surge in Afghanistan. In the very next sentence, he announced a fixed date of withdrawal. Then added, lest anyone miss his lack of enthusiasm, “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

Meaning, not Afghanistan

At the time, I called it the most uncertain trumpet ever sounded by a president summoning the country to war. I fear the campaign against the Islamic State will be a reprise. 

Here are politicians from both parties reacting to his speech

House Speaker John Boehner praised the speech a little, then said a speech is not a strategy, then said it was

a cause for concern that the president appears to view the effort against ISIL as an isolated counterterrorism campaign, rather than as what it must be: an all-out effort to destroy an enemy that has declared a holy war against America and the principles for which we stand.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said

“Tonight the President laid out a strong and decisive strategy to destroy ISIS without repeating the mistakes of the past in the Middle East.

Senator John McCain (at least quoted here) went straight to the point

“I think it was a very weak argument.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Huffington Post asked someone not currently in political office (but may soon try again) who as a Republican, still liked it.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the speech “the most explicitly pro-American speech” President Barack Obama has ever given.

Senator Dick Durbin brought up the need for legal authorization, but still supported his President

“I commend the President for clearly presenting to the American people his strategy for leading a multinational force to confront this barbaric terrorist organization known as ISIL.

Retiring Representative Mike Rogers supported the President

“The President is to be commended for his decision to take action against ISIL targets, wherever they are, including Syria.

So there are some Republicans offering support, others criticize Obama, some do both, and Democrats largely support their President’s war even as many criticized Bush’s wars more resolutely.

Roll Call noted similarities in responses to the speech.

But I don’t see a reluctant warrior at all.

Obama in May at West Point Graduation

Mr. Obama disputed critics who say his cautious response to crises like Syria’s civil war and Russian aggression toward Ukraine had eroded America’s leadership in the world. Those critics, he said, were “either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.”

But for a president who has promised to take the United States off a permanent war footing, Mr. Obama painted an unsettling portrait of the world, 13 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The nation, he said, had, in effect, traded Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for a more diffuse threat from extremists in Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Mali and other countries. 

He is portrayed as hesitant to use military force, reluctant to project power abroad, leading from behind, weak on foreign policy, Romney in 2012 accused Obama of going on “apology tours.” Recently with the war on ISIS he has been called a “reluctant warrior” on almost every news network.

I will show you how while not saying the word “war,” instead using words like hostilities, strikes, Administration officials use words like kinetic action to describe bombs, airstrikes, etc.

Obama has said repeatedly that he is a war president, but few seem to listen.  Republicans don’t think he’s bombing enough, and Democrats only hear him repeat that he was “elected to end wars not start them.”

This was from his ISIS speech on September 10th

I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

The Daily Beast on Obama’s expanding war on ISIS.

At first Obama asserted his authority to unilaterally authorize airstrikes in Iraq because as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, he had a responsibility to protect U.S. citizens and facilities

But almost as soon as he began the air campaign, Obama’s war got much broader. By the end of August, U.S. aircraft were striking ISIS targets in Iraq near the Mosul dam to protect Iraq’s critical infrastructure. In a few short weeks, the initial narrow aims of the war had expanded.

Now Obama seeks to expand that war even more. Addressing the nation Wednesday evening he said he reserved the right to strike ISIS targets in Syria. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” he said.

I completely disagree with Benjamin Wittes argument here

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow and research director in public law at the Brookings Institution, said the legal argument was a “very thin reed.”

“If they are relying on the 2001 AUMF for this, then what the president is saying is, essentially: This war, like all wars, must end; we can’t have endless wars; stop me before I sin again,” he added.

I believe that I will show that Obama is using the 2001 AUMF (as well as 2002 Iraq War Authorization) to justify war anywhere.  Besides US law, there is also the issue of international legal justification for war.

Obama’s legal issues are not confined to U.S. law either. The administration has not explained how the strikes accord with international law.

According to the U.N. Charter, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Exceptions are granted for self-defense, or when the U.N. Security Council specifically authorizes it. The Obama administration worked hard to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution before using American military force inside Libya in 2011.

Washington in the past has also used international humanitarian law to justify use of military force without U.N. endorsement—for example, when U.S. forces attacked Serbia during the Clinton administration. President Obama said Libya had to be attacked to avert a genocide in Benghazi.

In Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, host governments invited U.S. forces in, as opposed to Syria. But President Obama is not seeking any U.N. Security Council permission for this fight. He is not seeking permission from the government in Damascus to conduct airstrikes, and he is not asserting that the strikes are needed for humanitarian purposes. A draft U.N. Security Council resolution circulated this week makes no mention of authorizing such a war.

Not only is Obama not reluctant to fight wars, the only thing he does seem reluctant about, or arguing that he doesn’t need or already has is any legal authority, either Constitutional or international.

EARLIER DRAFT

President Obama has been seen at least in the Mainstream media as a President who is a “Reluctant Warrior,” hesitant to commit troops to Afghanistan past 2014, hesitant, unbearably light, unserious.

Syria’s Foreign Minister said (in 2013) that

President Barack Obama is “hesitant” and “confused” after he postponed a threatened military strike on the regime to seek Congress approval.

While Obama was “hesitant” and confused” in 2013 to bomb the Syrian government without Congressional approval, he has just begun bombing ISIS (and Khorasan) without any approval from Congress.

“weak on foreign policy” Free Beacon

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) took direct aim at President Barack Obama’s “weak and indecisive” foreign policy approach

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