Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Obama administration begins the conversation about ending the indefinite war

For almost a year now I've been suggesting that one of President Obama's long-term strategies has been to end the indefinite war. That is bigger than ending the war in Iraq and his commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan. It means ending the war on terror that was started right after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

He began that process right away when one of the first things he did was to shift the perspective from a "war on terror" to a "war on al Qaeda." Then he got us out of Iraq (which was always a distraction), focused on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden.

When the President visited Afghanistan in May this year, he actually laid out the process for ending the war on al Qaeda. Most people assumed he was simply talking about ending the war in Afghanistan. But they missed his conclusion.
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.
The reason this is important is that many of the things the civil libertarians criticize the President about have been justified based on this notion that we are at war. The criticisms come based on the assumption that this is an "indefinite war." But if President Obama actually ends that war, the legal basis for those activities also ends.

Yesterday the administration took a HUGE step that validates what I've been saying all along. Jeh Johnson, General Counsel for the Department of Defense, gave a speech at Oxford in which he discussed the end of this indefinite war.
The U.S. military campaign against al Qaeda should not be seen as a conflict without end, the Pentagon's chief lawyer said on Friday in a speech that broached a rarely discussed subject among U.S. officials....

The U.S. government points to the existence of an armed conflict as the legal underpinning for the indefinite detention of the global militant group's members and allies and for drone strikes in places such as Pakistan...

By asking how the conflict would end, Johnson could provoke a public conversation that gets more specific.

"There will come a tipping point," he said in the speech, "a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States," that al Qaeda will be "effectively destroyed."

"At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an 'armed conflict' against al Qaeda and its associated forces."
It is clear that this is the opening salvo from the Obama administration to start a conversation about the end of this war.  And you can bet that once that conversation starts, the right wing will grab it and run with the idea of President Obama being some kind of terrist sympathizer. The only question remaining will be whether those of us on the left will have his back on this one. We won't if we're not paying attention.

1 comment:

  1. And in ending the war, can we get rid of that horrible piece of offal called the AUMF?


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