President Obama is no less committed to military action than any of his predecessors. He might personally have a less gung-ho disposition than, say, George W. Bush. But Obama's personality is only a small part of the equation. Despite the putative end of the Cold War, the United States has remained on a war footing. The national security apparatus is programed for intervention. What we see now taking place in the skies above Syria and Iraq is not an exception to the Obama-as-pacifist rule. It is a summation of a particular evolution in U.S. militarism toward the asymmetrical warfare of dispensing death at a distance.
While the president has justified his plan to arm and train "moderate" Syrian armed groups on the grounds that it would counter the growth of the Islamic State, it will likely have the exact opposite effect. Further funding for "moderate" Syrian opposition groups will embolden IS and risk widening the brutal Syrian war.
The White House formally submitted its $500 million request to Congress on June 26. The money would go to train and equip "appropriately vetted" members of the Syrian opposition. That's a lot different from "moderate rebel forces," and it is yet another indication that we simply do not know who the "moderates" are in Syria.
As an American citizen who one day hopes to become a public servant and who frequently monitors our nation's foreign policy, I continue to wish you and your colleagues in the State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence community the best of luck. America's security depends on the efforts that you make in the weeks ahead.