Reprinted from The Guardian
The president has reached the dubious milestone of being at war longer than any of his predecessors. And the conflicts aren't ending anytime soon
Barack Obama has now been at war longer than any president in United States history, as the New York Times pointed out on Sunday. Barring some sort of peace miracle in the next six months, he will be the only president who ever served two full terms in office while constantly being at war. And given how he has transformed how the US fights overseas, his wars will likely continue long after he leaves office.
Anytime the media writes about Obama and war, it's apparently a rule that the author must mention that Obama supposedly fights his wars more reluctantly than his predecessors. But in many contexts, this is misleading. Obama hasn't attempted to avoid war; he has merely redefined it. In some ways, he has fought them in a far more aggressively than any president before him, just with different tools.
Obama's hallmark has been drone strikes, which he has used to bomb at least seven countries since becoming president. For all the talk of their precision and pin-pointedness, though, drones regularly kill additional people and have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths. These strikes cause blowback and stoke anti-American hatred in virtually every country they fly in, and many former officials say the program does more harm than good.
But it's not just drones. Instead of being straightforward with the public, his administration hides behind secrecy and word gymnastics in all facets of its war policy, keeping the number of exact number of troops in the Middle East hidden from the public, and re-defining words like "combat" and "boots on the ground" and "civilians" to mask how much killing is really going on.