Winding down the war on terror
My column today is headlined “How to end the war on terror,” but that’s not quite right. Barack Obama doesn’t try for victory nor settle for defeat. He doesn’t end wars, he winds them down. More specifically, he winds down American involvement in wars. Iraq’s civil war continues without us, as will Afghanistan’s when we get out of there.
Winding down the third war Obama inherited is more difficult because the war on terror is a flawed concept from the start: a borderless global battlefield, an undefined enemy, unclear objectives. Obama doesn’t like the term, preferring “counter-terrorism,” which is more amenable to serious thought.
But he described it as a war in his big speech last week, and laid out a way of thinking about it. The speech was short on specifics, and I have lots of questions about drones. But it articulated a policy approach to terrorism, and a world view sharply different from the Neocons who launched this war.
Obama winds down this war through steps many wars take: by shrinking the battlefield, by narrowing the definition of the enemy, by resolving the status of POWs, by restoring borders, sovereignty, and international law, and by withdrawing wartime powers given the executive branch. Each of those steps deserves serious discussion.