Obama is fired up and ready to go back to Iraq:
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that he authorized "targeted airstrikes" if needed to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq, as well as airdrops of food and water to religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamic militants and trapped on a mountaintop.
"Today, America is coming to help," Obama said.
The president's announcement Thursday amounts to a significant escalation of involvement in the growing Iraqi crisis, but Obama attempted to assure the American public that it would not lead to U.S. involvement in a ground war there.
The reassurance about no ground troops is hardly necessary - we all understand Obama is not committed to success here.
Peter Baker of the Times unleashed his inner auteur; it's "news analysis", not straight reporting, so let the prose flow:
WASHINGTON — In sending warplanes back into the skies over Iraq, President Obama on Thursday night found himself exactly where he did not want to be. Hoping to end the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama became the fourth president in a row to order military action in that graveyard of American ambition.
The mandate he gave to the armed forces was more limited than that of his predecessors, focused mainly on dropping food and water. But he also authorized targeted airstrikes “if necessary” against Islamic radicals advancing on the Kurdish capital of Erbil and others threatening to wipe out thousands of non-Muslims stranded on a remote mountaintop.
As he explained himself to a national television audience, Mr. Obama made a point of reassuring a war-weary public that the president who pulled American forces out of Iraq at the end of 2011 had no intention of fighting another full-scale war there. Yet his presence in the State Dining Room testified to the bleak reality that the tide of events in that ancient land have defied his predictions and aspirations before.
We see this "war-weary public" meme everywhere. But are we weary of war, or weary of endless, inconclusive struggles fought with no plan for victory? I opposed Obama's Hokey-Pokey surge in Afghanistan (You put the troops in, you take the troops out...) because Obama clearly had no conviction or commitment and becasue our hazy objectives were probably not attainable. I would oppose an effort by Obama to put troops back in Iraq for similar reasons. But under new leadership (not Hillary!) maybe a renewed US-led push in Iraq could make sense. Leaving ISIS to fester seems like an insane alternative.
WRONG ALL SUMMER: This is interesting if unsurprising, from Mr. Baker:
Mr. Obama has spent months resisting just that. Even after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seized Falluja and other territory in the western part of the country at the beginning of the year and marched through Mosul and toward Baghdad by summer, the president expressed no enthusiasm for American military action.
In June, he sent in 300 special forces troops not to fight but to assess the situation, an assessment that has yet to be completed, and he increased surveillance passes over Iraq. But Mr. Obama rebuffed calls, including those from within his administration, to quickly send in air power to hit ISIS forces.
Aides said his hand was not forced until ISIS won a series of swift and stunning victories last weekend and Wednesday night against the Kurds in the north, who have been a loyal and reliable American ally, especially compared to the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. ISIS threats to wipe out Yazidis and other religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar, they said, added to the urgency.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or would have been.