Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Last Stand on Terror

President Obama, in what will probably constitute a final effort to shore up his embattled foreign policy, has gone back to the War on Terror language that had been expunged from the administration’s rhetorical lexicon from its first days in office. President Obama in his December 6 White House address put “terror” back to use. “Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.” Not since the President had to play catch up in September 2014, reverse his withdrawal from the Middle East, and re-introduce bombing and a few military advisors and trainers aimed at ISIS has the President been more criticized than the last few weeks after the Paris and San Bernardino massacres.

President Obama
The term “War on Terror” was first cited in September 2001 and was in common use until President Obama’s election. Obama rarely used the term, and in March 2009, it fell out of official favor when Defense Department officials changed the name of its operation from “Global War on Terror” to Overseas Contingency Operation.” And, of course, the change wasn’t just rhetorical, but an explicit change in policy and practice. For example, in 2012, Jeh Johnson, then the General Counsel of the Defense Department (Johnson is now Secretary of Homeland Security) stated that “the military fight will be replaced by a law enforcement operation.” Obama in 2013 personally announced the end of the War on Terror: “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.”

The latest rhetoric has been part of a three week effort by the White House to get ahead of a cascade of criticism and falling polling numbers concerning the administration’s competence and commitment to the national security.

Read the President’s speech, Dec. 6, 2015 here

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