“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
These were words President Obama never used during his speech at the National Defense University yesterday. Rather, he said anything but anything that sounded like Winston Churchill’s immortal speech about defiance in the face of the march of tyranny.
In large part, there was nothing new in the counterterrorism strategy the President announced. Flash back to 2011—that was the real turning point. Before then, Obama really followed what was called “Bush-lite,” pretty much the same tactics as the previous Administration—just dropping all the rhetoric.
The war of ideas was completely banned from the Obama lexicon. Islamist terrorism became “violent extremism.” Terrorism became “senseless violence.” In 2011, however, Obama shifted course dramatically. More than dumping the war of words, the White House signed off on a new counterterrorism strategy that amounted to running away from Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible and limiting the offensive campaign to whacking top-level al-Qaeda with drone strikes.
The new strategy was bound to fail, fighting the last war while al-Qaeda evolved into a global insurgency that has spread from Pakistan to Nigeria.
Yet, even as the new fronts in the war on terrorism sprang up, the Administration continued to argue that it was winning. After Islamist terrorists murdered Americans and burned a U.S. consulate to the ground in Benghazi, the President claimed he was winning. As homegrown terrorists kill in Boston and London, he claims he is winning. As the Taliban mocks the U.S. standing down in Afghanistan, he claims he is winning.
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Rather than admit failure and change course, faced with criticism here at home, the President has decided to declare victory, hoping this will reenergize support from the left. In his speech, he promised to do even less and make the less more transparent. This will no doubt please progressives who were unhappy that Obama carried over any vestige of the Bush policies.
While this speech may make the President more popular with the progressive caucus, it amounts to Maginot Line strategy: The U.S. won’t go after them if they don’t come after us. If they do come after us—we will treat them like any other criminal. If they do get through—it won’t be our fault; it will be the result of addled minds and “senseless” violence. Obama has warped backed to the Clinton counterterrorism strategy of the 1990s without remembering that was the strategy that led to 9/11.
Obama framed the challenges we face today as a false choice between sitting back and global, endless, borderless war. In reality, there is much that the U.S. can to defend itself: dismantle global terrorist networks; push back on political Islam; and champion freedom in the world. There are options between doing nothing and invading countries. President Obama has decided to ignore them. He is sick of fighting. Unfortunately, America’s enemies are not.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.