When President Obama first announced that he had authorized a new round of airstrikes in Iraq, he attempted to reassure the public that the attacks would not lead to another war.
"I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq," he said, "even limited strikes like these. I understand that." He offered a reminder that he ran for office in part to end the war in Iraq. And he said he would not let a new war begin.
"As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." American forces would play a support role only, "because there's no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq."
So much for "limited strikes." The initial, narrowly targeted campaign, a "humanitarian" mission to save a small group of people trapped on a mountain in Iraq, according to that first speech, quickly turned into a larger bombing campaign against militants in Iraq and, as of last night, in Syria too.
And Pentagon officials are saying that it's not going end any time soon.
Via The Hill:
"Last night's strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, Army Lt. Gen. Bill Mayville told reporters.
"I would think of it in terms of years," he added about the length of the expected campaign against ISIS.
That sure didn't take long.
Really, this isn't that surprising, considering that Obama has already suggested the strikes could be part of an extended military effort. But it is revealing.
If you want to understand why Obama's foreign policy job approval ratings are falling, why people say they don't trust the executive branch, and why critics are suggesting that the Obama administration can't really be believed when officials promise that ground troops won't be part of the equation, then all you need to do is take a look at the difference between what's been promised regarding the military operation against ISIS and what's actually happened in a space of less than two months.
The initial justification for strikes—a supposedly limited, humanitarian mission to help a small group of desperate people on a single mountain—turned out almost immediately to be a pretext for a much larger effort to attack, degrade, and destroy ISIS militants in two different countries, an effort that is now projected to last years. All the while, the administration insists that it's not actually a "combat mission," as if dropping bombs and shooting missiles on hundreds of occasions, with the intention of doing it hundreds more times, is somehow not really combat.
The implicit message of Obama's speech last month was that you could trust him, because he was war-weary too. The practical message of the last two months, however, is that Obama is taking the nation to war despite his campaign promises to the contrary, and that he can't be trusted at all.