After President Obama finished his Oval Office address, declaring an end to the combat mission in Iraq, one of TV’s talking heads grumbled that what was wrong with the president was that he seemed to love the troops but hate the war.
Actually, that strikes us as what is right about the current occupant of the White House. Saying he “hates war” is overly simplistic, though. In the stirring speech delivered nearly eight years ago when he was still a state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama talked about the wars that he believed were necessary and just: World War II, the fight against the Taliban.
“I am not opposed to all wars,” he said that day in Chicago. “I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
From the start, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a dumb war, begun under false pretenses and with unrealistic expectations, lacking the necessary international support, a war that split open the burning sectarian divisions in Iraq, strengthened Iran and Al Qaeda, showcased brutal American military conduct at the Abu Ghraib prison and, most tragically, killed more than 4,400 Americans and more than 70,000 Iraqis.
The men and women who fought in Iraq — a sliver of society, due to our unwillingness to institute mandatory national and military service — were indeed the “steel in our ship of state,” as the president noted. Let us hope that they are never ordered again to pursue a journey of such folly. As then Senator Obama said: “We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly.”