Here’s a thought: The Iraq War boosters who enthusiastically promoted the idea that a violent invasion would deliver a stable democracy should keep their opinions about the next U.S. war to themselves.
For many pundits and (mostly) Republican politicians, the Obama years have been a time of serious decline of American power in the world. What they mean — and sometimes what they say outright, when they’re being honest — is that they want the United States to be more involved in more wars in foreign countries.
Sure, sometimes they’ll dress it up with rhetoric about American values and influence. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) — still treated as a foreign policy expert by big media — spoke recently about the need to “restore America’s power and prestige.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly declared that Obama “has not acted as a dominant world leader.”
It’s not hard to figure out what these folks really mean. Commenting on the turmoil across the Middle East, TV pundit Cokie Roberts complained that “we just haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country.” Time Magazine explained to readers that Obama “hesitates” instead of using military force, and “trouble follows as a result.”
Stop and think about that one for a second. The United States, of course, invaded Iraq in 2003 and occupied it for the next decade. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has gone on even longer. The Obama administration, often away from the media spotlight, has waged a drone war in Pakistan and Yemen — killing hundreds of innocent civilians.
We led a military intervention to oust Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, leaving the country a more violent and chaotic place. And if you’re looking at the current crisis in Gaza, don’t forget that the United States has been a stalwart ally of Israel, our country’s top recipient of military aid.
In short — does it sound like the United States is too “hands-off”?
One of the big problems with our armchair foreign policy gurus — besides the fact that so many of them have been so wrong for so long about so many things — is that they try to convince the rest of us that the Obama administration has retreated from using military force. This is obviously false — just consider the drone wars and Libya and the massive escalation of the Afghan War, for starters.
But the problem is bigger than that.
These analysts and TV pundits are, as the old saying goes, so fond of wielding hammers that everything begins to look like a nail. From the comforts of air-conditioned TV studios, all manner of foreign crises would be solved if the White House would just be more willing to bomb, attack and invade.
It doesn’t seem to matter to them where or what the problem might be. From Syria to Iraq to anywhere else, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed by U.S. military assaults. These are the people who look at the horrors in Syria and think the solution is to supply more weapons even if it’s just a recipe for more violence and suffering.
The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be working with the American public.
The New York Times recently noted that while Obama doesn’t get high marks on his foreign policy, “polls find that Americans do not want Mr. Obama to get the country enmeshed more deeply in places like Ukraine and Iraq.”
It all makes me wonder why the media gives so many warmongers a platform. The fact is there are relatively few voices in these media debates calling for peace and diplomacy. Too often, the need to commit to more war isn’t treated as an assertion so much as an assumption.
Peter Hart is the activism director of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. www.fair.org
Obama’s mythical retreat from military force