The Economist On Obama’s War Against ISIS: ‘Mission Relaunched’

The cover for the new edition of The Economist draws a direct parallel between the President’s war against ISIS and his predecessors invasion of Iraq:

Given the rather direct connections between Bush’s war and Obama’s the analogy is quite apt.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. beth says:

    It amazes me how the punditry doesn’t really seem to care whether or not we should be doing this – they’ve seemed to focus now on whether this excuses Bush’s Middle East Misadventures. Hey look, Obama’s invading too! Then it must have been okay when Bush did it!

    I’m not at the point where I’m ready to make that assumption. I think we’ve got to give this strategy of airstrikes and containment some time and see what develops. I’d like to see the President go to Congress for authorization but we all know that isn’t going to happen. I guess this is all we can expect when the people in charge of having a national discussion of whether we go to war or not decline to participate in that conversation.

  2. Pinky says:

    @beth: That seems to vary widely depending on the pundit.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    Any analogy to Operation Iraqi Freedom in ’03 is amazingly strained. There are no lies about WMD. There is no stupidity in regards to the length and difficulty of the task. No one is embarrassing themselves by pretending the ‘war’ is going to ‘pay for itself’. Claims that ‘degrading and destroying ISIL’ will result in a flowering of democracy in Iraq or Syria are absent. In at least some degree there actually does seem to be enough ‘buy-in’ by the Sunni states of the region (and of course France and possibly the UK) to call our efforts a coalition.

    One could go on and on and on.

    Unless possibly The Economist’s editors believe that every head of state that drops a bomb somewhere is just like Pres GWBush?

    Just for the record, I myself have deep reservations about making Syrian rubble bounce higher and more often because idiots have videoed themselves beheading western innocents. But my fellow Americans are invading Syrian airspace which is supposed to be very well defended and I’m not laughing nor trying to score cheap points in some meaningless way. Those who wish to do that will live down to their own level; hear what I’m sayin’?

  4. C. Clavin says:

    I’m trying to reconcile the large diplomatic component in Obama’s approach with the absolute lack of diplomacy in Bush’s.
    And then there are the Arab nations actually participating in these targeted airstrikes…overtly or covertly…that were conspicuously absent in Bush’s invasion and occupation.

    the analogy is quite apt.

    Apparently you don’t understand what that phrase means.

  5. Mikey says:

    I posted this in another comment thread, but it’s appropriate here too:

    Obama’s Iraq is not Bush’s Iraq

  6. superdestroyer says:

    The only difference this time is the partisanship. Progressives feel compelled to support President Obama because he is a Democrat and the Congressional feel compelled to question President Obama.

    That there are not massive protests by the OWS types or the Code Pink types just shows how those groups were really just anti-Republican and do not really have an underlying philosophical POV.

    To claim that it is different this time because Democrats are smart and Republicans are stupid is laughable.

  7. edmondo says:

    We’re just doing the bidding of our oil suppliers – it’s just like Bush’s war (or both Bushes’ wars. if you prefer).

    We are the 21st Century crack whores, giving the Saudis whatever they want for a few more million barrels of oil. I wonder what would have happened had we plunked that 3 or 4 trillion dollars into alternate fuel research instead of defending the middle east oil fields?

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @edmondo: Most interesting thing in your link is, in reference to Saudi Arabia agreeing to provide substantive support for military action against Islamic State,

    Reaching that agreement, however, took months of behind-the-scenes work by the U.S. and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State…

    This was not an improvised response to last months events.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin, anybody – see @gVOR08: How do you

    not get bold in blockquotes?

    (I’m using Firefox.)

  10. C. Clavin says:

    I’m in Chrome so I’m not sure if this helps…
    but bold is “less than” strong “greater than”
    and quotes are “less than” blockquote “greater than”

  11. JohnMcC says:

    @edmondo: Well THAT was interesting and I thank you my friend for sending me poking into Persian Gulf crude imports. Did you notice how they peaked in 2001 at over a billion barrels? And that since Barack’s election (or perhaps since the Great Recession) they have exceed 750M only once? Perhaps you like me researched this via the US Energy Information Administration website? Of course, if the Saudis had really turned on the spigot that would send the price of oil down in the face of turmoil in the ME, which has not happened — eh? After quite a bit of up and down (again around the time of the GRecession) there’s neither been sharp increases OR decreases in the price of crude. (I bet you examined as closely as I did.)

    So if the US has been (as you so quaintly describe it) a ‘crack whore’ (I think properly spelled ‘Ho’ in this context) our drug habit has been worse and is presently fairly stable. And the Saudis have been equally willing to sell their precious virtue for our military protection. So perhaps the prostitution is equal and mutual and entered into freely on both side? Of course, some effete persons might call this “diplomacy” or “cooperation” but you apparently have some experience with prostitution and see right through that.

    Since I do not pay the WSJ for access as I guess you do I have to thank you again for the link which makes the diplomacy behind this air war look much more substantial than I was aware of. Good for the State Dep’t and CentCom!

    As for the $3 or $4Trillion we’d have better spent on alternative fuels? It is as likely to come out of my checking account as it is to come from the US Congress. So we mourn the absence together, you and I. But I don’t let the lack of it poison my spirit and cause me to spew meaningless invective.

  12. stonetools says:

    Er, no, its not. Mike Tomasky lays it out:

    But since I’m fortunate enough to have a column, I’d like to broadcast it now, because the answer is a reverberating no. In fact it’s hard for me to imagine how the differences between the two actions could be starker. This is not to say that they might not end up in the same place—creating more problems than they solve. But in moral terms, this war is nothing like that war, and if this war doesn’t end up like Bush’s and somehow actually solves more problems than it creates, that will happen precisely because of the moral differences.

    The first and most important difference, plainly and simply: Obama didn’t lie us into this war. It’s worth emphasizing this point, I think, during this week when Obama is at the United Nations trying to redouble international support to fight ISIS, and as we think back on Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 snow job to Security Council. Obama didn’t tell us any nightmarish fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction that had already been destroyed or never existed. He didn’t trot his loyalists out there to tell fantastical stories about smoking guns and mushroom clouds.

    There are more reasons why not at the link. Saying the current campaign is like Bush’s War is like saying Germany’s invasion of France in 1940 was just like the Normandy campaign because it happened in the same place and involved most of the same combatants. It’s lazy thinking and worse, dishonest analysis, IMO.

  13. stonetools says:


    Sorry, Mikey, didn’t see your post before I posted.

  14. Grewgills says:

    Given the rather direct connections between Bush’s war and Obama’s the analogy is quite apt.

    Only if you don’t think about it, or don’t know what apt means.
    An air campaign with allies in country acting as ground troops to contain and diminish a terrorist organization with the acting government’s cooperation is not the same as a full scale invasion to depose and replace a nation’s government. There are valid reasons to oppose both, but they are far from the same thing.

  15. beth says:

    @superdestroyer: That there are not massive protests by the OWS types or the Code Pink types

    First of all, please show me where Code Pink ever had a “massive” demonstration. What do they have – 50 members? Also, try turning on a tv or picking up a paper once in a while – I’ve seen them being thrown out of every hearing being held on this issue lately. So yeah, they are protesting. And asking why OWS isn’t protesting a military Middle East intervention is like asking why the Humane Society isn’t protesting either. Different issues, different goals.

    If you look at the recent polling, I believe it was about 60% of Americans that are in favor of these airstrikes. Out of the remaining 40%, I would guess that 27% don’t even know what’s going on in the Mideast and the rest are too busy living their lives to protest. This is quite a different situation than the Iraq War and if you were being honest, you’d realize it too.

  16. Mikey says:

    @stonetools: GMTA, man!

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @beth: In the run up to Iraq there were massive anti-war demonstrations that got essentially no news coverage. A couple days ago something over a hundred thousand people demonstrated demanding we do something about AGW. Again, little or no coverage.

    A few years ago, if fifty Tea Party types rallied it was headlines and staged crowd photos in the supposedly liberal MSM. If there were a hundred thousand people demonstrating against our current actions in the ME, I’m not sure I’d hear about it.

  18. superdestroyer says:



    November, 2002: Code Pink launched a four-month vigil in front of the White House, culminating on March 8, 2003 International Women’s Day, with a 10,000-person march.
    January 20, 2005: Code Pink protesters attended President G. W. Bush’s second inaugural address, unfurling banners and heckling the president during his speech.[12] The group reportedly received VIP passes from unidentified members of Congress, and were eventually escorted out of the area by police.[

    I would be amazed if there is a single protest that is 1/10th the size of anything done in 2003.

    Also, veteran’s participation in Occupy Wall Street was widely reported.

    But of course, this leads to the question of where are all of the IAWA protesters?

    In the end, most of the anti-war protestors were really just anti-Republican protesters and did not really care that much about Afghanistan or Iraq but just cared that someone who was a Republican was in the White House.

    Also, I would give the Obama Administration credit to follow the Clinton Model of only conducting air campaigns.

  19. C. Clavin says:


    I would be amazed if there is a single protest that is 1/10th the size of anything done in 2003.

    These airstrikes are less than 1/10th of Bush’s invasion and occupation of a country wholly un-related to the source of the terrorism in question.
    In addition, and as others have pointed out, there are no lies being told, no bogus predictions of a cake-walk, no spys being outed.
    There is no analogy here.
    That may change. If and when it does…it bears discussion.

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Your argument makes progressives look like prostitutes when you are arguing over the size instead of the principle. If progressives believed everything they claimed back in 2003, they would be protesting considering that the Obama Administration has failed to clearly define the mission, define success, and define an exit strategy. Or at the very least, explain what national interest the United States has in a civil war in Syria and Iraq.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    You’re the one that brought up the relative size of the protest.
    I was merely responding to your idiocy.
    My bad. I should know better by now than to feed the trolls.
    If you could read you would see progressives questioning all those things.
    But the mission, the success, and the exit strategy from an airstrike is pretty fvcking simple, you maroon.

  22. ernieyeball says:

    @gVOR08: anybody – see @gVOR08: How do you not get bold in blockquotes?

    Damned if I know. I use Safari and the bold in

    block quotes

    occurs at random. Like just now.

  23. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: Would you care to flesh out your comment some? I’m not sure that I know what you mean. (You may be playing “Bad Beth! Shame on you lumping all pundits together like that when we know for sure that at least ONE is different!” I don’t know)

  24. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t know how the program decides to bold for block quotes, but mine are sometimes bold, sometimes plain text. The only correlation that I have found is that when I am importing a quote from an outside source, the program prints it plain, but if it is a clip from a comment thread (particularly from a block quote in a comment) it prints as bold.

  25. bill says:

    @beth: except Bush had the Congress’s blessing- do we need to do another roll call on this? this is obama’s own personnel war, he just did it because he could- mainly because he knows the idiotic “anti-war” crowd will not be flooding the streets rigging up effigies of him….’cause that’s racist….and/or something-it goes against the grain. and the msm will just lay there fawning about it as they can’t betray their leader, that too would be racist probably.

  26. beth says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker: No it’s fine. I guess I should have said “some” or “many” pundits. I forgot we’re on OTB where Jenos sets the posting standards and every word must be precise or else. Anyway I was just trying to express my displeasure with the way the coverage is going. The photo they used on the cover was from when Bush declared mission accomplished, not mission launched. It really makes no sense.

  27. Mikey says:

    @beth: It also seems to me the article is not really congruent with the message portrayed by the cover image.

    Whoever did the cover was probably trying for maximum attention-grabbing impact, rather than something actually related to the article within.

  28. ernieyeball says:

    @Mikey:..Whoever did the cover was probably trying for maximum attention-grabbing impact,..

    …a time tested tradition in slick rag journalism.