Will there be an end to the perpetual war?
Yesterday, President Obama spoke to a crowd at the National Defense University, and laid out his vision for the future of counter-terrorism. In his speech, the President addressed the controversial use of drones, the on-going fight to close Gitmo, and the need to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. President Obama invoked the words of James Madison, saying, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war.”
While at times he appeared to justify the on-going use of drone strikes, the overall tone of the speech indicated the President's desire to put an end to perpetual war. He said, “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.” And, he called on Congress to stop blocking efforts to close the torture facility at Guantanamo Bay – a prison he said “should have never been opened” in the first place.
The speech drew criticism from both the Left and the Right. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group, Code Pink, interrupted the President during his remarks, criticizing his failure to close Gitmo, and the civilian drone-strike casualties. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said the President Obama's remarks “will be viewed by terrorists as a victory.” It will difficult, if not impossible, for our President to please both sides, and he will likely be met with resistance in his efforts to conclude this decade-long disaster.
Most of that resistance will come from those on the Right, who refuse to acknowledge the damage that these policies have done to our nation, and the world. Those of us on the Left should continue to call for an end to the drone program, for the restoration of our right to privacy, and more. In the meantime, however, we must stand with President Obama as he attempts to close Gitmo, works to reduce executive power, and tries to restore the image of our nation throughout the world.
If we don't fight for these changes now, they may never happen. Our President cannot do this alone.