Year-end meeting dates are a natural for retrospective topics, IMO. Twice in 2013, President Obama gave major speeches on the future of the “War on Terror.” In fact, he basically retired the term and said plainly that U.S. foreign policy needs to be reoriented in other directions – away from the single-minded objective of attaining absolute security from terrorist attack regardless of the costs and towards other priorities.
Still, Obama also promised and delivered a lot of continuity with Bush’s terror war policies. In Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. At home, with a large expansion of the surveillance state and of DOD/intelligence budgets. The war on terror is here to stay, I think, regardless of what we call it. Al Qaeda will never surrender and the GWOT is now institutionalized into as vast and permanent an apparatus as we ever had in the Cold War.
So, what could “after” the war on terror mean? To me it’s two questions:
- How will our struggle against stateless terrorism be pursued in the future? Will anything major change within this conflict?
- Which other of our looming problems could or should replace terrorism as bigger priories? Climate? Dealing with rising powers (e.g., China and India), or the old rogue (Iran, North Korea) or failed states (Syria, Africa)? What about fixing global finance or other international institutions or better focusing our foreign policy to aid our domestic priorities?
On Monday I’ll explain a little more what I mean by “after” the GWOT and what Obama appears to mean – and not mean by it. Then, roundtable.
Discussion Questions –
- Has Obama deemphasized the War on Terror in fact, or just rhetorically?
- Could/Should he have done so?
- How will this conflict evolve in the future? Who is the enemy and who is not?
- How will the United States fight the conflict? Will the extraordinary measures taken to fight Al Qaeda et. al., become permanent?
- What other priorities might take the place of the war against Al Qaeda and affiliated groups?
War On Terror/Al Qaeda –
- Obama has ended the open-ended concept of a “Global War on Terror;” i.e., as the central fixation and organizing principle of our foreign policy. A must-read.
- No, he hasn’t. Despite Obama, the GWOT is the forever war. Extraordinary executive branch power has been institutionalized and is here to stay. Either recommended.
- Battlefield Earth: How Congress could limit this unlimited war in the future. Recommended.
A new foreign policy?
- Obama has broadly redefined our national security policy for the better.
- No, he hasn’t done that, either. Recommended.
- There will be no more easy wars for the United States.
What does the public think?
- Short term: Stopping terrorism and nuclear proliferation are our top priorities.
- Long-term: Similar. But, Americans want a foreign policy ultimately focused on supporting U.S. jobs, energy security, and prosperity.
NEXT WEEK: Comedians’ Effect on U.S. Politics (new schedule begins).