President Barack Obama’s approach to the U.S. role in burning conflicts of the Middle East and Ukraine, expressed in a press conference Thursday, promises that appropriate reflection and consultation will precede any further action.
In taking that position, Mr. Obama reflects the attitude of most members of Congress, which will return to Washington after Labor Day, as well as that of the American public, who remain unenthusiastic about U.S. involvement in another war. The Iraq War is ostensibly over, the Afghanistan War is drawing to a close and the U.S. economy is showing tender signs of recovery.
On Ukraine, Mr. Obama stated clearly that he sees recent developments between that country and Russia as part of a continuity over past months. He said, categorically, “We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem.” In stating America’s commitment to respect its obligations to NATO members, such as Estonia, which he will visit next week after a NATO summit in Wales, he noted that America does not have such treaty obligations to Ukraine.
On Syria, where some U.S. political figures are beating the drums for American military action, Mr. Obama also made it clear that, although the United States would continue to take action in Iraq to protect Americans in the embassy in Baghdad and the office in Irbil in the Kurdish area, he would not expand military efforts there without consulting Congress and without building an international coalition in the region to include Sunni states.
Whether it was the golf, or the break with the family at Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Obama’s posture as the United States approaches the super-heated fall political season is, correctly, one of pouring cooling balm on the flames of war that others are fanning in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.