Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No, the President didn't admit he was wrong about drones

Here's how Adam Serwer reacted to the news about President Obama's speech last week on counterterrorism.
That argument fails to take the historical record into account. When President Obama took office, the legacy he inherited from Bush/Cheney was that we were involved in THREE wars that were being mismanaged. He needed to get us out of Iraq, refocus the efforts in Afghanistan and narrow the "global war on terror" into a "war on al Qaeda."

In case anyone has forgotten, Osama bin Laden was still alive and actively plotting attacks. People like al Awlaki were preparing "underwear bombers" and sending people to blow up U.S. cargo planes. The President could have simply ignored all that. Or he could have invaded Pakistan and Yemen. He went into great detail in his speech last week to explain that neither of those options was feasible and that an operation like the one used against bin Laden was too risky to replicate. The option he chose was the use of drones.

I'd like to ask the Adam Serwer's of the world how they think the American people would have reacted if al Qaeda had been successful in pulling off another attack like the one's they were planning. It's difficult to engage them in a meaningful conversation about that since they never address alternatives to that risk. Perhaps they think that shouldn't be the President's concern. But as he said last Thursday, his calculation was that to fail to act would have been a dereliction of duty. You can bet that's how most American's would have seen it.

What President Obama did in his speech was to acknowledge that what he has done in the "war on al Qaeda" was a tough call - something he feels personally. But it was not an admission that he was wrong. He was also saying that its now time for that war to be over. And he was trying to prepare the American people to avoid allowing any future incidents to trigger the trauma-based fear that lingers for some after 9/11.
...we have to recognize that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience now to draw from, this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions -- about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them...

Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. But what we can do -- what we must do -- is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger to us, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all the while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. And to define that strategy, we have to make decisions based not on fear, but on hard-earned wisdom.

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