Tuesday, May 28, 2013

War On Terror Speech

I haven’t had much to say about President Obama’s “War On Terror” speech, mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what the hell he actually said. What do you make of a speech filled with such inconsistent cliches as, “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” followed by the same tired old one about how we must, in Afghanistan, “sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us.”

Further complicating my confusion is the downright schizophrenic reactions to it. Every warhawk who loves the war on terror was absolutely thrilled by Obama’s speech and drew from it the deepest reassurance that Obama intends to continue the war until the end of time, while progressives almost without exception were equally thrilled and drew from the speech an assurance that the last bomb will have fallen in no more than a week or two.

Except, that is, for those who will attack Obama no matter what he says, who are saying, of course, that Obama is himself a secret Muslim and is trying to leave the country so unguarded that Islamic jihadists will be able to make their way in and create Sharia law throughout the nation.

Anyway, progressives are hanging their hats on the concept that he is the first president in history to actually ask that presidential authority be reduced because he called for the “eventual repeal of the AUMF.” Yes, and he said that he would filibuster against immunity for the telecom industry, too, and then voted in favor of it. He said that he would not sign a bill extending the Bush tax cuts, and then extended them for two years. Why do we keep assuming that Obama will actually do anything that he says he will do?

Glenn Greenwald goes into this at much greater length and with his usual insight and eloquence, pointing out that Obama typically makes speeches that use a lot of words that say nothing. I recommend his piece to you. I particularly like the part where he compares the Bush WOT approach to that of Obama, saying that the only difference between the two is that Bush did it with a cowboy swagger while Obama is anguished and inwardly tortured by it.

He doesn’t point out that, anguished and inwardly tortured or not, Obama has said that ordering the killing of an American citizen was “the easiest decision” he ever made as president. When killing is an easy decision, how likely are you to end wars?

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