In the halcyon days before the Verizon and PRISM revelations gave the subject a sinister cast, the New York Post examined President Obama’s attempt to end the War on Terror by declaring peace. The signed editorial read: “President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University calling for an end to the war on terror forces the question of who gets to declare peace.” Could he actually do that?
The Left wing in our political debate has been agitating for some time to repeal the authorization to use military force that the Congress passed after 9/11. The President boarded the bandwagon yesterday. He vowed he would sign no laws designed to expand the mandate and declared outright that he looks forward “to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal” the congressional mandate to use force. “This war, like all wars, must end,” he said, declaring: “That’s what our democracy demands.”
“Suppose”, the NY Post asked further, “the President or the Congress do want to end the war with al-Qaeda but al-Qaeda doesn’t want to end its war against us. Is it constitutional for the president or the Congress to declare an end to the war if our enemy is still in the field levying a war against us?”
The problem of declaring victory against an enemy who refuses to concede defeat is not new. The World War 2 generation solved the problem by continuing until the foe threw in the towel. Although President Obama may believe that victory consists in convincing one’s countrymen that “we won”, historically it consisted of convincing the enemy that he lost. In World War II for example, both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated as a military fact by early 1944. But they were not convinced of the fact. The remainder of the war was spent knocking the idea into their consciousness.
But the allies did not declare peace in 1944. They went on and by mid-1945, Curtis LeMay’s bombers were incinerating one Japanese city a night; US battleships were shelling coastal towns, harbors everywhere were being mined and submarines kept ships from leaving or entering ports. Victory as an objective fact was not debatable. But to the Axis accepting defeat subjectively was unthinkable. One of the supreme ironies of World War II was that the Japanese high command needed the A-bomb more than the Americans. They needed it not to change any military fact, they were as defeated before the Bomb as after it, but in order to change a mental perception. The bomb provided the pretext to accept defeat.
But in the bad old, unenlightened days you convinced the enemy they lost. Today we’re smarter. We convince ourselves the whole misunderstanding should never have happened in the first place.
What is the administration’s pretext to accept victory? As near as can be seen, it consists in convincing ourselves that we never had an enemy to begin with. We just misunderstood things. There is no such thing as a Clash of Civilizations, nor rogue states, nor even a militant version of Islam. That’s all a conservative invention. There are just only misunderstood people who, if we got to know better, we would not drive to workplace violence.
Maybe that’s why the White House erroneously refers to its authority to bug domestic communications as deriving from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act. Not the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”, which actually exists, but by some slip of the fat finger, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are the words which occur in the White House transcript.
The most peculiar thing about not having a War on Terror to fight is that for some reason you have to keep on fighting. Just who is problematic. Neither Bush nor Obama ever got around to naming an enemy. And now that Obama wants to say it is over, we can say that maybe we never had one at all.
Instead, the administration undertook an expensive “outreach program” to people who are not the enemy to recruit Muslim Brotherhood operatives into American national security agencies to convince us they were never bad guys in the first place. And presumably having convinced enough of us, well then the war’s over.
So if peace is busting out all over what was the purpose of the PRISM and Verizon operations? What Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic called “all the infrastructure a tyrant would need”. Why nobody knows. It was the ‘whoops’ dump. The British Empire, it was said, was acquired in a ‘fit of absentmindedness’. Why then should not the NSA pick up terrabytes of records in the same accidental manner?James Clapper told Congress that any interception of domestic communications under the FISA — the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as you prefer — was purely unwitting.
“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper during the March 12 hearing.
In response, Clapper replied quickly: “No, sir.”
“There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect [intelligence on Americans], but not wittingly,” the U.S. intelligence chief told Wyden and the rest of the committee.
So there you have it. There”s nothing to worry about. You may say the means are disconnected from the ends. But in fact there are no ends. There’s no War on Terror, remember? At the root of this difficulty is an absurdity, which Walter Russell Mead calls “public peace, secret war“.
But as the MSM reels with Nixonian revelations about a man it has lionized, something important is being missed. There’s a connection between the President’s May 23 speech on the COFKAGWOT (the conflict formerly known as the global war on terror) declaring an end to the “war phase” of the struggle against terror and the secret intelligence system his administration has put in place. The two policies are joined at the hip, and while the President has likely understood this for a long time now, the political success of his foreign policy depended on keeping this truth concealed from his political allies in the US.
From the President’s point of view, the public belief that we have been engaged in a “war on terror” is part of the many sided problem he inherited from his predecessor. As long as that kind of military mindset dominates public thinking, even Democratic presidents will have to spend lots of money on defense. Tensions between America and Islam will fester, with the risk of more attacks and confrontations making things yet worse. The flexibility of presidents in reaching out to Islamic movements and governments, and perhaps also pressuring Israel to make more concessions in the hope of further reducing regional tensions, will also be limited. When they think the country is in danger, Jacksonians are vigilant and engaged; when they think all is well, they go back to sleep. This President wants them asleep, clinging to their guns and Bibles all they want, but not bothering their pretty little heads about American foreign policy.
The readers of this blog will remember all the posts which warned of the dangers of falsely abolishing war by redefining it as a law enforcement problem. The result, I wrote, would either grant all enemy combatants the rights of citizens or to reduce all citizens to the status of enemy combatants. It was an act of supreme intellectual dishonesty, a self-deception so obvious it was hard to see how anybody but a man of the Left could fall for it. The whole thing was a con pulled off by President Obama on a voter base so eager to see itself as intellectually sophisticated and morally superior they were willing to call a horse chestnut a horse.
President Obama’s solution to the problems of the world are those of a con man. And he had no difficulty convincing his base it had no enemies, faced no unemployment, that it could look forward to free healthcare. And that it could have free Obamaphones. He forgot to say there was one problem with those phones ….
Don’t worry he’s building a world without nuclear weapons, without provocative “unproven missile defense systems”; and as for those millions of records, well trust him. His is the most transparent and ethical administration in history.
Rush Limbaugh says “America is in the midst of a coup”. You might quibble with that dire interpretation, but the one sure thing is that someone’s in the middle of a joke. Maybe the joke is on us. The audience in the video below should be glad they’ve gone to college. Now they know better than to worry.
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