U.S. Military Intervention And The American Presidency


U.S. Army howitzers
Peter Dejong/AP

U.S. Army howitzers in Saudi Arabia head toward the Kuwait border in 1991, part of the effort to drive the Iraqi military out of Kuwait. Now, more than 20 years later, the view of military intervention has changed in America.

U.S. military intervention is the most visible and dramatic manifestation of American foreign policy. Even in a time of relative decline, U.S. military supremacy, and the willingness to use it, remains one of the most important pillar of U.S. power.

And the Obama administration has not shied away from using military force. It intervened in the civil war in Libya and has used drones in Yemen and Pakistan.

But, President Barack Obama has shied away from using troops in some circumstances. It seems as though the 'when' and 'how' the United States intervenes is changing.

So, have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq shaped the way President Obama thinks of using U.S. military force overseas?

Jeremy Shapiro, a senior fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, believes it has had an impact on the president’s thinking.

“If you look back to 2008, he ran on a platform that the Iraq war was a mistake and that it had been executed poorly, and poorly conceived,” Shapiro said. “He has been taken with that example in the sense that he believes that military intervention represents sort of a trap for a U.S. president.”

Shapiro is in Las Vegas to deliver a lecture Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Brookings Mountain West called “U.S. military Intervention and the American President.”

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He said his lecture will describe the new U.S. approach to intervention by looking at military campaigns in the Obama administration, particularly Libya, as well as non-interventions in Syria and Iran.

Shapiro said it’s easy for both Democrat and Republican administrations to get into these operations, like Syria, Yemen, or Iraq.

“The public will usually allow you and usually rallies around the flag and you will usually see a short term bump in your popularity rating, but are hard to win and hard to get out of,” Shapiro told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “The president saw that in 2008. It probably has been reinforced with him as president.”


Jeremy Shapiro, senior fellow, foreign policy, Brookings Institution

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