By Steve Chapman
Midway through his inaugural address, Barack Obama proclaimed, "A decade of war is now ending." A cynical listener might respond: "And a new decade of war is about to begin." Obama sounded pacific notes Monday. But it will be a huge surprise if he can get through four years without going to war.
Military force should not be a frequent recourse for our leaders. For the first century or so of the republic, it wasn't. Leaving aside the intermittent war against the Indians, wars were few and widely spaced.
Beginning with World War II, though, American presidents grew much more inclined to send our forces to fight in faraway places. The "Vietnam syndrome" supposedly cured that impulse. But it didn't last. Since 1989, University of Chicago scholar John Mearsheimer notes, we have been at war in two out of every three years. We are, in his words, "addicted to war."
Being engaged in combat is the norm. Peace is not really peace -- it's just a term we use for that brief interval between invasions.
Obama has a chance to break that pattern, and in his address, he gave hints he might like to. "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war," he said. "We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully."
Hawks regard those as fighting words. The editors of National Review insisted that "it is clear neither that a decade of war is now ending -- not in Iraq or Afghanistan, to say nothing of Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, or Mali...