Have you heard that Barack Obama is a “reluctant warrior”?
Obama is a reluctant warrior, which, in truth, is what he was elected to be.
At Politico, it’s the headline to an article on Obama’s inner conflict over the war: “Barack Obama, reluctant warrior.”
Circumstances on the ground and building momentum in elite political and policy circles that something vigorous must be done to prevent additional bloodshed and regional chaos point in one direction. Clear majorities of public opinion and Obama’s own clear conviction that the United States has spent the last decade overextended militarily in the Middle East point the opposite way. [bold added]
Mr Obama is a deeply reluctant warrior. He resolved not to intervene in Syria’s civil war, famously rejecting the united advice of his entire national security team, which urged him to arm the rebels.
It’s distinction worth highlighting in a New York Times piece on the relationship between the Obama administration’s push for war in Syria and the Bush administration’s march to war in Iraq:
There are other differences, of course. The most obvious is that President Obama is a reluctant warrior, while his predecessor, George W. Bush, was anything but. The Obama administration has so far sketched out a war plan that is most remarkable for how narrowly it is drawn.
Aaron David Miller, a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, writing at CNN:
To be sure, there are real risks in acting on option three [proceeding with a limited strike] and Obama most assuredly is a reluctant warrior.
Wolf Blitzer, also on CNN:
He's clearly a reluctant warrior, this president. And he made that clear a week ago when he said if the U.S. goes in and attacks another county without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.
Historical fun-fact: Obama was a reluctant warrior on Libya, too! According to National Journal back in 2011:
Drawn toward an important inflection point in his presidency this week, President Obama revealed none of the lead-with-the-chin swagger of his predecessor. Playing to type, he instead adopted the mien of the reluctant warrior.
Granted, he wasn’t reluctant enough back then that he didn’t eventually send in the cruise missiles.
And how reluctant is he now? He’s so reluctant that his administration has launched a self-described “flood the zone” campaign to convince Congress to give the go ahead to launch a strike. So reluctant that, according to Reuters, “Obama is making individual calls himself to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to press his case for action.” For a reluctant warrior, he's pushing his case for war pretty hard.