If Obama is pretending we are not at war, he is not doing a very good job of it. “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” he declared in his inaugural address. “I don’t think there’s any question but that we are at war” with terrorists, his attorney general, Eric Holder, said at his confirmation hearing that same month. “We are indeed at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Obama said in May. “As the president has made clear,” his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said in August, “we are at war with Al Qaeda.”
It’s true that Obama prefers to say we are at war with terrorists rather than terrorism, because, as Brennan put it, “you can never fully defeat a tactic like terrorism any more than you can defeat the tactic of war itself.” But since Al Qaeda and its allies won’t be signing an instrument of surrender anytime in the foreseeable future, the implications are similar.
Nor does there seem to be much difference between Bush and Obama in terms of the policies said to be justified by this permanent war. The closing of Guantanamo, which was supposed to happen this month but has been delayed until next year at the earliest, is by the Obama administration’s own account a symbolic move, aimed at removing a conspicuous “recruiting tool” for Al Qaeda. But the policy that Guantanamo represents will continue. [continued…]
Since 1945, the United States military has devoted itself to the proposition that, Hiroshima notwithstanding, war still works—that, despite the advent of nuclear weapons, organized violence directed by a professional military elite remains politically purposeful. From the time U.S. forces entered Korea in 1950 to the time they entered Iraq in 2003, the officer corps attempted repeatedly to demonstrate the validity of this hypothesis.
The results have been disappointing. [continued…]