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President Obama delivered an address today at the National Defense University called “The Future of our Fight Against Terrorism.” Actually, part of the speech was about the past, including much self-congratulation and some shots at President Bush.
This part of the speech is revisionist rubbish. As Max Boot explains:
Obama said, for example, that after he came into office, “we unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.” Umm, actually all of that happened in Bush’s second term.
He also took a swipe at the admittedly imperfect terminology favored by Bush (deliberately and understandably formulated to avoid any mention of our actual enemy—Islamist extremists), saying “we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ — but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Actually, that’s exactly what GWOT meant when used by the Bush administration: “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle” terrorist networks. Even Obama’s closing line—“That’s who the American people are. Determined, and not to be messed with”—sounds as if it could easily have been delivered in a Texas twang.
As for the future of the fight against terrorism, Obama declared: “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.”
This is dangerous rubbish. The fight against terrorism is defined by what terrorists attempt to accomplish. Thus, as much as we would like to, we cannot “define the nature and scope of this struggle.” If we wish to fight terrorism successfully, we must be prepared to combat it in all of its forms, with special focus on the terrorists’ methods of choice, which are always evolving.
Obama contended that “the scale of [the threat we face today] closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.” He implied, therefore, that our approach to terrorism should more closely resemble those used in the pre-9/11 world. For example, he called for the refinement, and ultimately repeal, the of the mandate provided by the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF).
This is fallacious rubbish. We know that the pre-9/11, pre-AUMF, tactics didn’t work.
Obama proclaimed that al Qaeda is a vastly diminished force in Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.
But al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan spend so much time thinking about their own safety because our military puts their safety in jeopardy. Obama, though, is pulling our military out of the region:
In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.
This is wishful rubbish. When our combat mission comes to an end, al Qaeda will think less about its safety and, in all likelihood, more about how to conduct terrorism against U.S. interests in other regions. And having chased the U.S. out of Afghanistan, al Qaeda will likely once again become a rising, confident force. Relying on the Afghan government to counteract these realities is foolish.
To make matters worse, Obama signaled a shift in his policy of using drones. Going forward, he said, the U.S. will only use drone strikes against terrorists who “pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” where there is a “near certainty” that the target is present, and there is a “near certainty” that civilians “will not be injured or killed.”
As John Yoo points out:
The president risks rendering impossible the only element of his counterterrorism strategy that has bred success. An obvious problem is that there is almost never a “near certainty” that a target is the person we think he is and that he is located where we think. President Obama either is imposing a far too strict level of proof on our military and intelligence officers or the standards will be rarely followed.
Even if Obama wanted to water down the drone program in this way, why would he announce this decision? Yoo correctly point out that, in response to Obama’s announcement, “terrorists will always meet and travel in entourages of innocent family members and others — a tactic adopted by potential targets of Israeli targeted killings in the West Bank.”
In sum, President Obama is deliberately weakening America’s ability to protect its citizens from terrorism. Having been reelected, he feels free to be true to his core convictions. Thus, to a greater degree than before, he will permit left-wing ideology to trump national security concerns.
**Written by Doug Powers
Long live the honor system.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Eric Holder’s comprehensive review will conclude that Eric Holder’s department acted appropriately if not heroically. However, in the name of respecting the privacy of journalists, the DOJ may acquiesce by agreeing to redact entire numbers from phone records they seized before releasing the information in the future:
President Obama, responding to mounting criticism of his Justice Department’s seizure of reporter records, said for the first time Thursday that the administration would be reviewing its guidelines in response to the controversy. Obama said he’s “troubled” by the developments and that journalists should not be “at legal risk” for doing their jobs.
Not only did the department secretly obtain two months of phone records from the Associated Press, but it seized phone records from several Fox News lines — and labeled one correspondent a criminal “co-conspirator” in its successful effort to seize his personal emails.
Obama, in a Washington address, said he’s asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the department’s “guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters” and report back by July 12. He said Holder will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns.
Obama then said any concerned members of the media desiring an invitation to meet with Holder need only mention it the next time they’re talking on the phone to their parents. Just kidding… I think.
The latest on the man in charge of the department now being asked to investigate itself:
Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.
The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.
Mouse, cheese, etc.
**Written by Doug Powers
John Hay’s The Breadwinners: A Social Study (1883) is hardly a great novel. But it is, I’m confident, the best novel ever written by a future U.S. Secretary of State. And it’s a nice send-up of the “professional reformer” of the late 19th century — precursor of the modern “community organizer.”
Indeed, the only fully realized character in The Breadwinners is its villain, a professional reformer. Claiming a commitment to improving the lot of the working man — but outside of the trade union movement — Hay’s villain vows “to get our rights peaceably, if we can’t get them any other way.”
The villain resides seamlessly at the intersection of radicalism, raw hatred, and criminality. And to think, Hay never met Bernardine Dohrn or Bill Ayers.
The villain’s name is Andrew Jackson Offit. And in case the first part of that name is too subtle, the narrator explains that it represents
an unconscious brand. It generally shows that the person is the son of illiterate parents with no family pride or affections, but filled with bitter and savage partisanship which found its expression in a servile worship of the most injurious personality in American history.
Conservatives of a certain bent, particularly those with an interest in late 19th century history, will enjoy The Breadwinners. And because it was written so long ago, you can get it on your Kindle for free.
President Obama’s response to criticism over his Justice Department’s seizure, without notice or the opportunity for a hearing, of phone records from the Associated Press and emails in Fox reporter James Rosen’s personal account has been surpassingly strange. Whenever he has addressed the issue, he has cited his own support for a media shield law as if that were somehow exculpatory. Thus, in today’s national security speech he said:
I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government overreach. And I’ve raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concerns. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and he’ll convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I’ve directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
So what is his point, exactly? Are the AP and Fox seizures instances of “government overreach” that would be prevented by the shield law he supports? If not, why is he bringing up the shield law? And if so, why is his administration overreaching? It is after all, Obama’s Department of Justice that seized the AP and Rosen records. If he opposes such actions, why doesn’t he just direct DOJ not to carry them out? Is Obama saying that he needs Congress to pass a law to prevent him from overreaching? Apparently so.
Meanwhile, it was reported today that Eric Holder personally approved the seizure of Rosen’s emails on the ground that he was a criminal “co-conspirator”–this, after Holder made a show of claiming (perhaps falsely) that he had nothing to do with the decision to secretly obtain phone records from the AP. So it’s nice to know that Holder “shares [Obama's] concerns,” but what is the administration’s position on undisclosed seizures of journalists’ emails and other records? Are they for the practice, or against it? Are we supposed to pay attention to what Obama says, or to what he does?
As I said, it is all very strange.
“As frustratingly late as it was — Mr. Obama could and should have said years ago much of what he said today…”
**Written by Doug Powers
While watching President Obama’s speech today at National Defense University I was nodding off a bit when a Code Pink serial heckler provided a loud disruption and woke me back up:
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 23, 2013
Video via The Weekly Standard:
“Let me finish, ma’am.” That would have been extra funny if the heckler had been Barbara Boxer.
Strange how nobody seems to be able to recognize Medea Benjamin when she’s entering these places even though she’s been a heckling mainstay for years. Or maybe somebody likes the brief intermission/distraction she provides — like a halftime show featuring a lefty playing first chair shrillhorn in place of the usual marching band.
**Written by Doug Powers
As the investigation into the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi intensifies, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are seeking to conduct transcribed interviews with thirteen top State Department officials in the coming weeks in order to learn more. Those named in the letter include a wide range of current and former State Department personnel, from senior advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to mid-level career officials with responsibility for diplomatic security.