One President’s Stand Against the Washington Herd
Obama is seeking to redefine “strength” and “power.”
In October 2007, Senator Barack Obama, then a struggling Democratic presidential candidate, stood before a few hundred students at DePaul University in Chicago and delivered a speech that few in the foreign-policy world noticed. Five years after his famous statement against the disastrous Iraq invasion, Obama wanted to do more than remind his audience that he had been right all along, which was of course a useful distinction with his chief rival at the time, Hillary Clinton. He didn’t blame the Iraq War simply on George W. Bush or some neoconservative cabal that had hijacked the government, as many Democrats preferred to believe so as to absolve themselves of responsibility. Instead, Obama delivered a broadside against what he called Washington “groupthink.”
“The American people weren’t just failed by a president,” Obama said. “They were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts [and] by a foreign-policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war.” For Obama, the mentality that led to Iraq was the most prominent example of a systemic breakdown—the result of a distinct mindset that had dominated U.S. foreign policy for too long...