FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Republic of War

by SHELDON RICHMAN

Republicans are upset about President Obama’s May 23 foreign-policy address, yet politics aside, it’s hard to say why. “We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Sunday.

But four days later in his Memorial Day remarks, Obama said, “Our nation is still at war.”

Why did the earlier speech set off Republicans? He acknowledged that terrorism can never be completely eliminated and that a risk-free society is impossible. He conceded that U.S. military action breeds enemies. He admitted that not every foreign violent organization is a threat to Americans. He even quoted James Madison: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Indeed, Obama said some things that need saying, but will he do what needs doing? More precisely, will he stop doing what shouldn’t be done?

The speech provides no reason for optimism. For one thing, his premise is wrong: The U.S. government was on a perpetual war footing before the attacks of 9/11, intervening one way or another in many places. The “war on terror” has just been more visible.

Obama says he wants to understand the roots of terrorism, but he just repeats bromides.  “These threats don’t arise in a vacuum,” he said. “Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology — a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West.”

But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum. Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world.  These efforts have consisted in direct overt and covert intervention, backing for brutal and corrupt dictators and monarchs, and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so.

Despite Obama’s acknowledgement of the dangers, to Americans and others, of perpetual U.S. warfare, one strains to find signs of change in the speech. He says “our response to terrorism can’t depend on military or law enforcement alone,” but he still envisions a large role for the military: He says the first order of business is to finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.” And, “Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces.” But “its associated forces” is a conveniently vague justification for continued U.S. militarism. It goes beyond Congress’s 2001 authorization for military force.

While Obama promises only to narrow the use of drones and shift responsibility from the CIA to the Pentagon, we can’t be sure even this will happen – or matter. His “presidential policy guidance” is classified, and he reserves the authority to target alleged militants who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” when he decides that other alternatives are unavailable or are too risky. Yet his administration has drained the word “imminent” of meaning

“Before any strike is taken,” he added, “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.” But he conceded that his administration has killed an undisclosed number of noncombatants. Independent sources say several hundredhave been killed — while entire villages live in terror of the next strike. This will not change.

Remember that administration targets are only accused of planning attacks. There is no due process, and an oversight board would not change that.

Obama defended his killing of American Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen on the grounds that al-Awlaki had helped plan attacks, but Obama offered no proof, and investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill says the first efforts to kill Awlaki preceded the terrorist plots he is allegedly linked to. And what about the separate drone killings of al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son and other Americans?

Obama also renewed his long-dormant call for closing Guantanamo — but not before the mass hunger strike and force-feedings that the whole world is watching.

This all looks more like legacy preparation than real change in policy. Witness Syria and Iran.

So why are Republicans fussing? Obama said, “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root.”

For Republicans, that’s un-American.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va. He can be reached through his blog, Free Association.

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba after Fidel: Interview with Professor John Kirk
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewable of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail