I strongly suspect that Ruth Marcus is misreading President Obama’s misreading of history:
On foreign policy, the signal episode of Obama’s overlearning the lessons of history is . . . pretty much the entirety of his foreign policy. It has been a reaction, understandable enough, to the adventurism of George W. Bush, primarily the ill-advised, ill-fated venture in Iraq.
Bush promised humility yet overreached; Obama vowed realism and yet underplayed the United States’ essential hand in world affairs. Hence the administration’s reluctance to intervene in Libya, the costly dillydallying over whether and how to help the rebels in Syria, the failure to push hard enough for a status of forces agreement that would have allowed U.S. troops to remain in Iraq.
The administration’s instinct to retreat and ignore festering problems has helped contribute to the cataclysmic result now playing out in Iraq. Yes, the original, far graver, sin was the decision to invade. The responsibility of the incumbent president is to deal with the mistakes he inherits.
I don’t think that the president has “overlearned” anything. He’s a specialist. I think his interest is limited to political history.
However important political history is, there is other history and I don’t think that President Obama believes that its lessons apply to him.