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  • 8 August 2014, 7:35

Obama Shows Steely Side To Stand Up To ISIS

The White House has a mantra: There is no US military solution to Iraq's problem.

Indeed, any US military mission against the murderous Islamic State - previously known as ISIS or ISIL - was unthinkable to the White House earlier in the summer when the insurgents began their bloody crusade through northern Iraq.

But now Barack Obama has ordered US military aircraft to engage in airstrikes inside northern Iraq.

So what has changed?

For one thing, the scale of the crisis facing tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and Shias is now an undeniable humanitarian catastrophe.

And there's some form here. The justification for US involvement in Libya in 2011 was painted in similar terms by Obama.

"We knew that if we waited ? Benghazi ? could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world," he said.

At the time of the Libya conflict, the White House described America's role as "Leading from Behind". That doctrine has now been eclipsed, the President describing his attack on IS as a "hallmark of American leadership".

Then there's the man himself. The Obama on display earlier spoke with purpose and steel. The professorial President we saw a year ago agonising over whether to get involved in Syria is no more. In his place, a Commander-in-Chief with a clear promise. "America is coming to help," he said.

Obama justified the action in Iraq because American diplomatic interests at the US Consulate in Irbil were threatened by the IS advance. The administration was badly scarred by the attacks on a diplomatic posting in Benghazi in 2012, in which ambassador Chris Stevens lost his life. It is not a mistake that they will make twice.

America is a war-weary nation. It has paid a heavy price for two long and costly engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and there is no public appetite for getting involved again in Iraq. Indeed, Obama was keen to reiterate the line that there will be no American boots on the ground this time.

This is a President who wants to be remembered for ending two wars, not starting new ones.

But in the space of a few days, we have seen the US military back in action over the skies of Iraq and a US General gunned down in Afghanistan. For a Commander-in-Chief trying to craft a legacy, it's a stark reminder that the shadows of the past may well endure long after he has left the spotlight.

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