With the news that Obama has apparently been drawn back into military conflict in Iraq, it became necessary politically for the President to say something about what our military will be doing. After hearing his remarks, it would have been preferable for him to say nothing at all.
“I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these,” he said. “I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”
Regardless of whether you think this is a correct limitation on our involvement in Iraq, and regardless of whether Obama himself thinks it, there is no circumstance under which he should say it. If the United States is going to place our military in harm’s way and utilize lethal force against the Iraqis, it makes no sense to flat out declare to the enemy that there is a line of engagement you will not cross, no matter the provocation. War to some extent is always a game of poker, especially against a militarily inferior foe, where much more can be achieved with far less bloodshed when your enemy not only has to account for the actual level of force you are applying, but also the increased level of force you might apply at some point in the future if you get sufficiently motivated.
Declaring up front during the course of a military engagement that you’re just here to drop a few bombs and leave no matter what practically ensures that the military action currently undertaken by the United States will have no lasting effect on the actual theater of war other than the actual physical damage caused by the strikes. The enemy does not have to adjust tactics or long term plans because Obama has declared at the outset that he’s only holding ace high and he will fold if they bet high enough.
If this is the political maneuver that must be undertaken by the President in order for us to become militarily involved in Iraq again, then I would prefer that we not be involved in all. President Obama has learned apparently nothing from his previous ill advised foray into Libya about the long terms effects of symbolic and a priori limited warfare in a country where Islamic extremists are contending for control of the country. If Iraq is going be left to burn in either case, I see no reason for anyone in our military to be placed in harm’s way just for the sake of the President wanting to be seen as “doing something” in Iraq.