How Iraq became Obama's war

It’s not Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz or Bill Kristol that make the case against Obama’s first-term judgments; it’s the reality of what is happening, and what lay at the heart of the Administration’s decision-making. Obama won the 2008 Democratic nomination in good measure because he was the only candidate who had opposed the invasion in the first place. (It helped greatly that he was in the Illinois State Senate, and not the US Senate, when the vote was taken.) Extracting the United States from Iraq was one of the central tenets of his foreign policy.

It was an achievement often cited by him and his supporters in the case for his re-election.

Now, Obama’s case seems to be that if the Bush Administration had not gone into Iraq in the first place, none of this chaos would have happened. This is both true—and irrelevant to what happened when policy-making was in the hands of the Obama Administration. It looks like a grim example of the Law of Unintended Consequences—“when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that our objective was to drain the swamp”—but what is happening now is happening on Barack Obama’s watch, as first-term judgments cloud his second term.