When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded President Obama the prestigious honor shared by the likes of Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. in 2009, they probably didn’t anticipate that near the end of his tenure in office, he’d be at war longer than any American president in history.
May 6 marked the dubious milestone for our nation’s commander in chief, who upon entering office, pledged to end America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that his predecessor, George W. Bush, had gotten the country into. But it seems just he opposite has happened.
The New York Times reports:
If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.
Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.
Granted, Mr. Obama is leaving far fewer soldiers in harm’s way — at least 4,087 in Iraq and 9,800 in Afghanistan — than the 200,000 troops he inherited from Mr. Bush in the two countries. But Mr. Obama has also approved strikes against terrorist groups in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, for a total of seven countries where his administration has taken military action.
“No president wants to be a war president,” Eliot A. Cohen, a military historian at Johns Hopkins University, told the Times. “Obama thinks of war as an instrument he has to use very reluctantly. But we’re waging these long, rather strange wars. We’re killing lots of people. We’re taking casualties.”
Obama acknowledged during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that his lofty campaign goals were at odds with the realities he faced leading the nation, saying that humanity needed to reconcile “two seemingly irreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.”
He has yet to comment on reaching this milestone, however.