How 9/11 made Barack Obama a war president
Many expected Barack Obama to be an antiwar president. But he embraced his role as commander in chief of the world's most powerful military, escalating the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
When he took office in 2009, Barack Obama immediately became a war president, a two-war president in fact. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 had made that inevitable.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures A Day of Remembrance: Honoring 9/11
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Yet it seemed an unlikely role. He had been a constitutional law professor and community organizer who had never served in the military. During his brief time in the US Senate, he served as a junior member on the Foreign Affairs and Veterans’ Affairs committees, but military issues were not his specialty.
Consider one difference with his immediate predecessor in the White House: Though he’d cut short his time in the Texas Air National Guard and never served overseas, former president George W. Bush had easily transferred his Texas persona to a “mission accomplished” swagger across an aircraft carrier flight deck. Obama would have looked as out of place there as Michael Dukakis did in a US Army tank during his failed 1988 presidential bid.
Yet in his 32 months as president, Obama – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – has embraced the role of commander in chief of the most powerful military in human history.
While winding down the war in Iraq, he has escalated the war in Afghanistan – extending that into Pakistan (and likely other countries) through a steep increase in Predator drone attacks on Al Qaeda figures. On the ground there, US military casualties per year have more than tripled since he took office. (Yesterday, a massive Taliban truck bomb outside a combat outpost wounded 77 NATO soldiers, most of them Americans.)
When some advisors urged a more cautious approach to confirmed intelligence that Osama bin Laden had been located in Pakistan, Obama chose the riskier option of sending Navy SEALs to do the job – a mission that might have been as disastrous as the attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980.
His response to the uprising in Libya was measured – US naval and air forces led the way in pounding Muammar Qaddafi’s military, while American ground forces were ruled out – but in retrospect that seems to have been correct.