Obama prefaced his remarks by saying, “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue.” If there is a policy change in there, it’s hard to find.
As the Review aptly put it, “We suppose that if the president wants to stop talking about this war while continuing to wage it, that’s better than the inverse.”
The biggest anti-terror coup of Obama’s presidency was of course the killing of Osama bin Laden, an event that stemmed from intelligence gleaned via select “waterboardings” of captured al-Qaida figures during the Bush years. Another legacy of the Bush administration is the military-run Guantanamo Bay prison, which Obama has been promising to close ever since he first ran for president in 2008. He repeated that promise again last week.
But Congress refused — on a bipartisan basis — to allow large-scale detainee transfers from Gitmo the last time he tried that maneuver, and isn’t likely to go along now, either.
The fact is that Guantanamo is a destination where the U.S. can sideline dangerous terrorists and enemy combatants indefinitely — men who should not be released to return to the battlefield or to plot the deaths of more Americans.
The president said in his remarks that the use of drones is a legal, effective and necessary anti-terrorism measure. But under new White House guidelines, the drones will be used only if a terrorist suspect represents “an imminent threat” and can’t be captured, he said.
Obama also pledged a new standard for drone use: the “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed or injured. That sounds good, but would be an impossible standard to meet in reality, and one never before met in the history of warfare. Keep in mind as well that the U.S. had bin Laden targeted for a missile strike late in the Clinton presidency, but held off for fear of causing collateral casualties. Just think how different history would have been had someone then had the cojones to “pull the trigger.”
Obama chose an interesting moment — or cynical one, many might say — to focus on national security, what with his administration battered by an unprecedented level of scandal in recent weeks. He touched on two of those scandals (Benghazi and the aggressive targeting of journalists at AP and Fox) in his speech, but only in ways that offered no answers and tried to deflect blame.
The president said Thursday that the U.S. war on terrorist groups, “like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.”
But the fact is that wars do not end until they are won or until both sides agree to stop fighting — regardless of “what history advises” or “what democracy demands” as he absurdly put it. And we are a long way from winning this war. In fact, it is a war that is likely to continue as long as there continue to be radical Islamists — which is something over which we have next to no control.
Barack Obama prematurely declared the war in Iraq “won” and is taking the same approach in Afghanistan. He now seems to be taking the same approach in our efforts to defend against radical Islamic terror. Coming on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing and butchering of a British soldier last week on the streets of London, that approach seems overly hopeful at best.