May 29, 2013
This past Thursday and Friday, President Obama delivered two speeches designed to outline his new thinking on national security and counter-terrorism. While much was made in the media of the president’s statements at the National Defense University and the US Naval Academy suggesting that the most active phase of US military action overseas was coming to an end, this “new” approach is but the same old policy wrapped in new packaging. In these addresses, the president panders to the progressives, while continually expanding and solidifying the “enabling act” principle.
The president will continue and even expand drone attacks overseas because they are “less deadly” than ground invasions. He promises to be more careful in the future.
He is entertaining the introduction of “kill courts” which will meet in secret to decide who is to be executed without trial or charge. He promises these will have sufficient oversight.
He will seek a new and updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force to expand his legal authority to wage war wherever and whenever he wants. He promises it will one day be repealed.
He will continue to indefinitely detain at Guantanamo individuals who have been neither charged nor convicted of any crime, and who cannot even be tried because they were tortured and thus the evidence is tainted. He promises to “commit to a process of closing GTMO.”
The speech speaks of more war and more killing and more interventionism all masked in the language of withdrawal.
The president warns of the threats of the new al-Qaeda affiliates that have sprung up in places like Iraq without explaining that it was the US invasion of Iraq that opened the door to their entry in the first place. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, just as there was little extremism in Libya before the US attack on that country in 2011.
The president claims that “unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria.” However, it was the US-led attack on Libya that resulted in extremists gaining power there, with many fighters afterward spreading unrest and destruction by joining the wars against the Syrian and Malian regimes. The extremists brought to de facto power in places like Benghazi were responsible for the murder of the US ambassador, yet the president says nothing about that unintended consequence of his interventionist policies.
He calls for even more interventionism in the future, but he promises that it will be a different kind of interventionism. He wants the US to shape democratic transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya while actively supporting those seeking to overthrow the government in Syria.