How Obama Made War Cool Again

by | Oct 31, 2016

​Among the many objectionable features of Obama’s Presidency, perhaps none is more personally infuriating than his nearly total destruction of antiwar sentiment among those on the center-left.

If George H.W. Bush kicked “Vietnam Syndrome”–i.e. skepticism of military intervention–then President Obama seemed to overcome Iraq and Afghanistan Syndrome.

Back in 2008, after George W. Bush had just spent the last 7 years painstakingly restoring war’s bad reputation with the American public, it seemed like no self-respecting liberal supported war. And the reason was that they seemed to have a realistic understanding of it. No, we won’t be greeted as liberators. Yes, American troops will die, along with scores of innocent local civilians. And by the way, we can’t afford it.

Obviously, this skepticism wasn’t dominant among conservatives. But it had taken hold among enough people in the center and on the left, that the 2008 election turned substantially on this issue. President Obama was the (relative) peace candidate, and he won largely on that basis.

But then the peace candidate became the forever war president. And in the process, he made aggressive war acceptable again–even allegedly noble, in some circumstances. 

Today, Iraq War 2 is still widely considered a disaster. And the absurd notion that US troops will be greeted as liberators is still out of favor. However, the quite similar concept of “humanitarian intervention” is somehow still respectable. More than any other single person, Presidential Obama is responsible for that.

And thus, he’s also the reason when I argue with friends on the left against bombing another country, the default counterargument is that I must lack compassion. Why, you don’t want the world’s most powerful military to bomb populated areas and create another failed state in the Middle East? Have you no heart at all, man?

Our Nobel Peace Prize-winning President is the root cause of these nonsensical exchanges.

Having said all that, fortunately not all Democrats and people on the left embraced the President’s new branding of war. And perhaps the most notable outlier was former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He didn’t switch to become pro-war when it became fashionable in his party. In fact, he tried to undermine the Democrats’ plan for war in Libya by negotiating a peaceful transition behind the scenes.

Today, he’s still fighting against the bipartisan support for war, and he’s published an excellent op-ed at The Nation:

Why is the foreign policy establishment spoiling for more war? 

About Eric Schuler

Eric Schuler is a contributor to The Libertarian Institute, with a focus on economics and US foreign policy. Follow his work here and on Twitter.

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