Wednesday, while being interviewed by Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, President Barack Obama made a revealing statement about the careful manner in which U.S. military interventions are made. O’Donnell asked Obama if he was going back on his word by authorizing an expansion of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria with the deployment of what the Pentagon calls a “specialized expeditionary targeting force.” The president earnestly replied, “You know, when I said no boots on the ground, I think the American people understood generally that we’re not going to do an Iraq-style invasion of Iraq or Syria with battalions that are moving across the desert.”
It is difficult to imagine that the American people misinterpreted Obama’s pledge of “no boots on the ground,” which he only made publicly 16 times between August 2013 and July 2015. Moreover, it is unclear how he knows how Americans interpret his pledges. However, the obvious reason that all presidents and senior administration officials initially downplay the mission and role of U.S. military interventions is to catalyze domestic political support. This is because opinion polling of Americans reveals that they overwhelmingly do not support wars that they believe will be unilateral, long, bloody, and costly.