Steve Chapman

We may find it hard to avoid plunging in further. The Washington Post Wednesday reported "little evidence that the attacks had stopped regime forces from killing civilians." If the air strikes fail at that objective, Obama will find it hard to walk away.

But suppose our allies do win? Obama may be wrong in thinking they would be an improvement. "It could be a very big surprise when Gadhafi leaves and we find out who we are really dealing with," Libya scholar Paul Sullivan of Georgetown University told The New York Times.

What is clear today is that there is only one party in American politics. That is the war party -- which, like Major League Baseball, is arbitrarily divided into two groups engaged in the same game. Military restraint is the equivalent of cricket: a quaint, incomprehensible pastime that will never take root here.

Candidates for the highest office may champion peace and prosperity. But presidents no longer strive for peace. War has become the default response to unpleasant events abroad.

Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada and sent troops to Lebanon. George H.W. Bush invaded Panama, launched the Gulf War and dispatched forces to Somalia. Bill Clinton invaded Haiti and bombed Serbia.

George W. Bush and Obama have more in common than we thought. In 2000, Bush argued for a humbler role in the world -- rejecting nation-building and accusing Clinton of overstretching our military. Once in office, he abandoned that approach. Obama has been similarly faithless to his own stated policies.

War is the central business of the presidency. Once someone becomes commander in chief of the most powerful military in history -- even someone elected on his peace credentials -- he is helpless to refrain from using it.

Said Obama in 2002, "I'm not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars." That first sentence was true.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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