The Obama administration and the mainstream media can make the airstrikes in Iraq sound like a humanitarian war, a New Age operation driven not by realpolitik but by the high-minded and/or fuzzy-headed responsibility to protect. In fact, Obama is using deadly force for strategic goals, just like George Bush. The difference — and it is significant — is simply that Obama relies on airstrikes (as in Libya) and special operations (e.g. Somalia), as spelled out in his 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, rather than risking another ground war.
That brings us to Saturday, when the US opened a new humanitarian front, dropping supplies to Shia Turkomen refugees near the northern town of Amirli – and dropping bombs on the Sunni extremists threatening them. But despite the highly public emphasis on protecting displaced minorities, like the Turkomen and the Yazidis, 86 percent of US airstrikes have happened for strictly military reasons.