Obama: Ask First, Shoot Later

| Thu Jun. 19, 2014 9:23 AM EDT

Congratulations to the LA Times copy desk for the brilliant front-page headline on the right (print edition only). In the obligatory bland tones of a straight news piece, it perfectly captures both President Obama's approach to military intervention as well as the approach of the war-is-always-the-answer faction of the Republican Party. And the accompanying story isn't bad either:

Last fall, as President Obama weighed airstrikes against Syria, deliberations followed a clear pattern: The president solicited scores of options, planners returned with possibilities, and, according to people involved, Obama would reply with the same question: And then what?

Over the last several days, with Obama mulling involvement in another Middle East conflict, this time in Iraq, that dynamic has held.

....Obama's approach — the persistent "and then what?" question — reflects his deep skepticism about the ability of military intervention to fix entrenched problems, a suspicion that some note has grown, or at least solidified, during his tenure.

....That view won support Wednesday from the general who was the architect of the so-called troop surge under George W. Bush. The U.S. should reengage militarily in Iraq only if the country's sectarian communities reach a political agreement, retired Gen. David Petraeus said at a conference in London. "This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias, or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight," he said.

At least there are a few people still left in Washington who understand this. Now we just need a few more.

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