Last night, President Obama announced that he had authorized air strikes in Iraq, in conjunction with air drops of humanitarian aid. In a White House speech, he described the mission, "We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That's what we're doing on that mountain."
This morning, reports confirmed that U.S. air strikes had begun on militants associated with the Islamic State.
In a follow-up to President Obama's announcement last night, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement justifying the strikes on the grounds that they could be necessary to prevent genocide of the Yazidi minority group in Iraq.
In 2007, as a first-time presidential candidate running an anti-war campaign, Obama said he explicitly opposed keeping U.S. forces in Iraq to prevent genocide.
Via NBC News and the Associated Press:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said.
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it's likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.
"Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis," Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. "There's no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there."
The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.
"It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnet for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions," he said.
Here's Reason's Ed Krayewski the question of whether the U.S. should intervene to stop genocide.