Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States was supposed to be transformative.
After being officially nominated for president by the Democratic Party in the summer of 2008, he promised that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” and that “this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.”
The war he was talking about was the Iraq War. Obama had called it a “dumb war” back in 2002 when running for Senate out of Illinois. The same basic idea continued in his presidential campaign. Obama ran on a platform of disengaging the U.S. from military operations in Iraq and refocusing on Afghanistan, a “good war” that, Obama argumued, was being ignored because the U.S. was being distracted by Iraq.
Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in January 2009 with the U.S. engaged in two wars and promising to bring both of them, at different paces, to a close. His administration phased out “war on terror” terminology in 2009, but not the policies.
His mention of foreign policy successes have become rarer and rarer with successive States of the Union. He will almost certainly not take credit one last time for ending the war in Iraq. He stopped doing so more than a year ago, as ISIS gained ground in post-war Iraq. At last year’s address, Obama celebrated the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan. He almost certainly won’t mention the complications with that narrative since then.