Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama Lays Out New Policy On National Security; Limiting Drone Strikes & Closing Gitmo

American Values

President Obama at NDU: NYRB’s Cole writes about the May 23rd speech: “These were the words
of a president with his eye on the long term, on his legacy, and on America’s fundamental values—apparently willing to look beyond the politics of the moment. The question before us now is whether the nation, too,
can rise above those politics in order to make the project of restoring peace a reality.”
Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster; AP
Source: AP

An article (“Long Road To Peace”), by David Cole, in The New York Review of Books says that President Barack Obama is trying to move the United States away from its decades-long war on terror and toward a way of peace and adherence to its Constitution; this includes limiting the use of drone strikes and closing Guantánamo.

Both will be hard to deploy, using the language of the military, in a nation, and more important a Congress, divided. Yet, it starts with an idea, and this is a good one from the Executive Office.

Cole writes about the speech Obama made at National Defense University (NDU) on Thursday:
After four years of failing to make much progress toward closing Guantánamo, while increasingly relying on a drone war whose legality has often been questioned, Obama might have chosen to speak more cautiously in his NDU speech. Instead, he went much further, outlining a way out of this “perpetual war,” saying that “our democracy demands it.” Whether he can make good on this promise will very likely define his legacy. If he succeeds in doing so, the Nobel Peace Prize committee will be seen not as naïve, but as remarkably prescient, in its awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama in 2009.
The key to resuming a state of peace, Obama argued, lies in acknowledging our limitations. As he put it, “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…. We must be humble in our expectations.” Humility has never come easily to the United States or its presidents. But that humility is the foundation of peace.
Even as he defended his controversial use of drones to kill by remote control, Obama laid out a vision for countering terrorism in the future in which the use of force is truly a last resort. He stressed the importance of alternative tools, including law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, diplomacy, foreign aid, and more generally, working to alleviate the underlying grievances that drive human beings to kill innocent people for political ends. He explained that al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the verge of being decimated, and that the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress after 9/11 and directed at al-Qaeda, should accordingly be refined and ultimately repealed.
He specifically rejected expanding the president’s power to use military force against unspecified new terrorist groups. And he acknowledged that preventing all terrorist attacks is simply not possible, and that we must learn to live with risk—a truth that all security experts profoundly understand, but that most politicians are deathly afraid of conceding in public, for fear that they will be seen as weak.
I especially like President Obama’s use of the word humble, a rarity among politicians; this does not imply weakness but an intellectual understanding of limitations, including for the world’s dominant military power as to the benefits of relying too much on force. The U.S.’s perpetual war, a legacy of the previous Bush administration, has to end, and the sooner the better. A nation that is continually at war is a nation that is far from peace.

There are other ways, and that Obama is considering them now is a breath of fresh air in a atmosphere poisoned by harsh rhetoric and toxic demagoguery. You could almost see Obama in his struggle on what to do, listening to advice from various trusted sources, weighing all options, and then and only then arriving at a decision. It’an intellectual awakening. I wish Obama all the success that he deserves in this initiative, not bold by normal rational human understanding, but bold among members of Congress.

You can read the rest of the article at {NYRB]

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