President Barack Obama has two more political headaches to juggle before the November election — the advancing genocidal jihadis in Iraq, and the progressive voters who don’t want to see Iraq back on their TV screens.
Late on Thursday, Obama reluctantly announced an airstrike campaign in northern Iraq to block a revived Islamist army that is rapidly capturing cities, weapons and resources, and is sending a sea of refugees into the Iraqi mountains and onto the appalled voters’ TV screens.
But he also reassured his progressives that he will minimize the fighting. “I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these,” Obama told U.S. voters during his TV statement.
“I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve don,” he claimed, before he quickly declared that “we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to Iraq.”
The juggling act comes 30 months after he pulled the last U.S. forces out of Iraq, and 10 weeks before a midterm election where he’s trying to keep a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
The Iraq meltdown threatens to deep-six his weak foreign policy poll-ratings. Those ratings already are a hair below 38 percent, according to a survey average by RealClearPolitics.
Foreign policy usually doesn’t sway many votes, but an actual genocide in Iraq would be demoralizing for voters whom he needs to vote in November. His overall ratings now hover just above 40 percent, and have been dragged down by the faltering economy and his unpopular push for additional immigration.
Yet Obama vaulted into the White House in 2008 because he persuaded the Democratic Party’s anti-military progressive base that he would withdraw troops from Iraq, regardless of opposition.
To juggle these incompatible problems, Obama and his deputies repeatedly emphasized his reluctance to get involved in a shooting war in Iraq.
But they also said the airstrikes are justified by good reasons, such as humanitarian considerations, by the need to block genocide and to protect U.S. diplomats and military advisers.
“Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain,” he said. “Many thousands of innocent innocent civilians … [are] faced with the danger of being wiped out.”
And he kept on repeating his reluctance to get involved in Iraq. “The United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world … [but] we can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide,” he said.
Obama’s directive officially authorized airstrikes to protect U.S. officials and facilities in the capital city of Baghdad in Erbil, which is the nearby and vulnerable capital of a province populated by ethnic Kurds. He also authorized airstrikes and humanitarian cargo-drops to aid people from the Yezidi community. Tens of thousands of Yezidis have fled to a nearby barren mountain, where the daytime temperature is above 120 degrees.
Overnight, three U.S. cargo aircraft dropped water and food to the people on the mountain.