U.S. Military Intervention and the American Presidency

Document Type


Publication Date



Brookings Mountain West


U.S. military intervention has long been among the most visible and dramatic manifestations of American leadership in global affairs. Even in a time of relative decline, U.S. military supremacy, and the willingness to use it, remains one of the most important pillars of U.S. power. And the Obama administration has not shied away from using military force. It launched a full-scale intervention in the civil war in Libya and has used drones and special forces in Pakistan and elsewhere with unprecedented vigor. President Obama has also shied away from using forces in some circumstances where his predecessors might have used that tool. It seems clear that as with other aspects of U.S. leadership, when and how the U.S. intervenes militarily must and is changing in response to a new global environment.

This lecture will describe the new U.S. approach to intervention by looking at military interventions in the Obama administration, particularly in Libya, the Drone Campaign, and Afghanistan, as well as “non-interventions” such as Syria and Iran. It will describe how the Obama administration has approached the use of force and explore whether this approach will persist in future presidencies or whether it is a result of Obama’s policy choices.


Armed Forces; Intervention (International law); Military policy; Presidents


American Politics | Military History | Political History | Political Science

Streaming Media