By this point in his presidency, Barack Obama had hoped to be firmly focused on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, one of two wars he inherited from the Bush Administration. Instead he faces the task of reintroducing several hundred of them to the other battlefield, of which he had seemingly washed US hands only three years ago when the last US troops pulled out.
How did it come to this? According to prominent Republicans, the violent rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is validation of the view that Obama was too quick to get out of Iraq following the George W Bush-instigated war and unwise to not leave a sizeable stabilising force for emergencies.
Despite the disconcerting fact that individuals such as Senator John McCain — instrumental in getting the US into such a mess in the first place — are again being considered voices of reason on foreign policy, the message resonates.
There are yet to be significant gauges of public opinion after the recent Iraqi insurgency, but Obama's handling of other geopolitical crises in the past year or so seems widely unpopular. Aggregated polls point to a sharp increase in disapproval of US international engagement since April last year, with 52.7% of Americans against it, and 38.5% in support.
The backlash, which has recently been exacerbated by the contentious prisoner swap to secure the release of Sgt Bowe Berghdahl from Taliban grasp, perhaps explains why Obama has been so quick to get back into Iraq, albeit in a limited capacity.
The worrying flipside from a future policy point of view is that the US public does not want a return to the Bush-like days of interventionism that this latest decision might presage. Prior to the latest Iraq crisis, Obama had in fact been giving the people exactly what they wanted in this respect. The direction he outlined in his prominent speech at West Point in May was perfectly in keeping with the view of 52% of Americans who last year told the Pew Research Center the that US should 'mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own' (the first time that more than half the public believed such a statement since the midpoint of the Vietnam War).
It is with these facts in mind that Obama's actions in Iraq, as with so many of his others on the foreign policy sphere, smack of reluctance and frustration. Moreover, the reintroduction of troops will go against his better judgment by relying on authorisations of force granted under President Bush, whose international legacy Obama had hoped to wholly dismantle upon taking power.
For his 2011 decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, Obama had a mammoth 75% approval working in his favour. If the President has been guilty of lacking foresight in taking such actions, then the US people who elected him and guided such policy must now also accept some blame.