Saturday, June 2, 2012

Should we codify the endless war, or end it?

After the NYT published their article about President Obama's secret 'kill list,' the paper's editorial board weighed in on the subject. In it they asked some very important questions that rightly go beyond what President Obama is or is not doing now.
How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?
But this is actually the most telling line of the article to me.
The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat.
I agree. It is unconscionable for me to think of the U.S. being in "a perpetual war on terror." But that's not the point the writers were trying to make. They accept that first part as fact and so their solution is to codify rules about the use of force in that situation.
To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list.
I can imagine that our global future might be one where "war" comes to mean something very different than we have expected in the past. And if so, perhaps codifying rules about this type of engagement will be necessary.

But my hope right now lies elsewhere. Just as the Obama administration stopped using words like "war on terror" and narrowed their focus to a "war on al Qaeda," I would hope that the rest of us would come to see it in those terms and be able to visualize a time when 'perpetual war' will end..
My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda...

This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.

- President Barack Obama, May 1, 2012


  1. The site The Sad Red Earth has a great analysis of the NYT article, but also had some tough words for people like Greenwald who are more concerned about drone strikes than the GOP's attacks on the rights of Americans:

  2. Where were these questions when Bush II was in office?