The most devastating reproach historians are likely to make to Barack Obama's record in the White House is his devastating failure in foreign policy — a failure that stems from his willingness to leave the warrior ideologues of the State and Defense Departments in place after he became president.

To them he added ideologues of a new and equally interventionist persuasion, which he found congenial: that of humanitarian action, scarcely relevant in resisting the Islamic caliphate that emerged as a major force in the concluding half of his second term. By then he also faced a Republican congressional majority distinguished by its ignorance — worse than his own in foreign policy matters — and its vindictiveness.

He arrived in office to a military leadership lacking a political strategy to shape its tactics in the Middle East and Afghanistan. When he asked for options and political counsel on ending the Mideast wars — as he had promised the electorate — he was insolently given settled plans by the generals for prosecuting the wars to victory.