"Human Folly" Not His Fault
"No president wants to be a war president. Obama thinks of war as an instrument he has to use very reluctantly. But we're waging these long, rather strange wars."
"We're killing lots of people. We're taking casualties."
Eliot A. Cohen, military historian, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
"It's the difference between being a war president and a president at war."
"Being a war president means that all elements of American power and foreign policy are subservient to fighting the war."
"What Obama has tried to do, which is why he's careful about ratcheting up the number of forces, is not to have it overwhelm other priorities."
Derek Chollet former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
"As the Middle East coordinator, I certainly felt like it was a wartime pace."
"War doesn't exist anymore, in our official vocabulary."
Philip H. Gordon, former White House staffer
"No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama."
"Even many of Obama's supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn't achieve what it had hoped for."
Geir Lundestad, former secretary, Nobel Committee
And the world waits. It has waited for eight years for his promise, promotion and prophecy to be fulfilled. It will continue to wait after his departure. This antiwar president has overseen if anything the reversal of his promises and the acceleration of some of the tactics undertaken by his predecessor under his presidency. Troops were withdrawn, then a proportion returned. Not to fight, mind, only to train, and it was unfortunate if training took them into the line of fire and they returned fire.
President Barack Obama has achieved two distinctions denied any of his predecessors. He has been singled out for the Nobel Peace prize on the basis of his proposed solution to war, never achieved and he is the only president who has presided over his entire presidency as a war president. Something there does not compute. If the Nobel committee later regretted their impulse, possibly Barack Obama has regretted not opting to decline the honour.
The U.S. military is now in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Syria. Drone and air strikes have been approved against terrorist groups in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. It was under the watch of the peace president that Osama bin Laden was caught in Pakistan, not when the war president George W. sent his troops to the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to capture the elusive al-Qaeda head. Obama dedicated himself to reversing what Bush had wrought.
Instead, Bush's legacy became Obama's extension under extenuating circumstances. This, though, is the president who in his acceptance speech uttered the lofty recognition of the tedious inevitable: That "two seemingly irreconcilable truths - that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly", is a reality that had to be recognized. As though, looking into the future and recognizing the futility of his promises, he uttered the obvious unavoidable.
The United States under the Obama administration realizes that it has international commitments given its propensity to initiate changes in the administrations of other countries; therefore, 15,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. In recognition of the inability of governments in Iraq and Afghanistan to fend for themselves it has become difficult for the United States to ever leave entirely. Extrication is a hope, not a reality.
The original intention was to commit limited American troops to countries in conflict with the purpose in mind of working with their militaries to develop skills within the armies and police to enable them to handle their own security issues. The army that the U.S. trained in Iraq disappeared into the woodwork coming face to face with the jihadist fighters of the Islamic State, necessitating that U.S. troops be returned to a war America had vacated.
Afghan Army trainees whom the Americans spent limitless time and funding on, were incapable of holding back the Taliban from retaking territory lost when U.S. troops were still deployed there in significant numbers. Such unreliable partners, recognized Mr. Obama, represents a situation that is "probably going to be something that we have to continue to grapple with for years to come."
But, uh, not if the unfathomable occurs and presidential candidate Trump enters the vacated private quarters of the White House.