Obama: War on Terror "Must End Now"
President Obama delivered an hour-long counter-terrorism speech, which ranged from drone warfare and torture, to Guantanamo and the War on Terror, to Benghazi and press-freedom.
Obama seemed to be building the case that the War on Terror is complete; reasoning that our current threat is commensurate to pre-9/11 levels, and asserting that "we must define our effort not as a boundless global war on terror..."
The president insisted that "perpetual war" (by drone or otherwise) is "self-defeating", called for the repeal of the authorization for use of military force, and definitely declared that "this war must end."
It was really two speeches in one; half explaining that we need to collectively decide to put and end to certain precarious policies - and the other half covering his own behind for practicing those very policies in the first place.
Opponents will certainly latch onto the legal justifications proposed to rationalize some of the more difficult issues. For instance, it is troubling to learn that Congress was consulted previous to every single one of the hundreds of drone strikes - including those which resulted in the assassination of Americans citizens. The assertion that all Americans should feel comfort in our being subject to the same rigorous congressional oversight - certainly does nothing to assuage any lingering fears.
But, that was the only real new information provided in the speech - we already knew the bulk of the gory details, if not specifically admitted to by the executive prior to this speech.
Silver linings? The president proposed a Privacy & Civil Liberties Board, for times when "counter terrorism and our values come into tension" - adding that he is "troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."
A reduction and possible end to signature strikes was hinted at - and at long last the admission that drone strikes inevitably involve collateral damage, and possibly create more radicals than they are likely worth.
Obama explained why Guantanamo runs counter to our values and should have never been opened in the first place. While our super-max prisons leave no questions - we will have to wait and see whether we do in fact charge those men in civilian courts, being that they never were afforded Miranda rights.
The answer to this question - as with many others - will serve to define what it means to be an American, to our children, to the world, and to history.
The speech was reminiscent of Eisenhower's military industrial complex warning speech - but while Eisenhower had only three days left in office, Obama has three-and-a-half more years left to lead us out of the woods.
Though I've certainly been critical of Obama regarding many of these issues - I'm also willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.
The next three-and-a-half years will determine Obama's credibility, and indeed his place in history.
President Obama also set up a false argument between drone warfare in Yemen & Somalia, and of doing nothing at all - clearly omitting the option of... I don't know... congressional debate over transparent and traditional military options.
Failed to mention Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki. Failed to explain whether there was another intended target, if not the 16 year-old American citizen & non-terrorist - or whether it was simply an example of a signature strike.
Completely and utterly fudged chronological details regarding Anwar al-Awlaki, his involvement in specific plots, and his general role in AQAP. Failed to explicitly shift the armed-drone program to the military. Failed to clarify imminent and ongoing threat. Failed to mention double-taps.
More importantly though, the speech was a challenge to the American people to take responsibility for the knowledge of what our government is doing on our behalves - and to hold our elected officials accountable to us for their decisions.
The fear-mongers will certainly and inevitably cry out in righteous indignation that Obama has surrendered the American people to the whims of terrorists.
In fact, Obama has issued a challenge to the American people - to declare that we will no longer be slave to terrorism, no longer live in fear of those murderers and failed murderers.
Our president is not so much asking us to trust him, as he will be gone in a few years. He invited us into the oval office to consider the implications of these policies. He was imploring us to ask ourselves who we really are as a people - entrusting each and every American citizen with the facts necessary to engage in thoughtful debate to determine what is morally acceptable in America.
To define what it is to be that shining city on a hill.