Obama’s Vision: No More War but Plenty More Fighting
President Obama’s speech illustrates America’s global security dilemma: stay out of wars, but don’t let up the fight. By Kevin Baron
President Barack Obama closed out his State of the Union address by attempting to define a new post-war standard that limits U.S. military intervention in global conflicts around the world but shows no sign of letting up chasing global terrorism.
Obama declared that the war in Afghanistan will end this year and that the bar for the use of military force in foreign interventions must remain high. The president pointed to his decisions last year to enact stricter rules for drone strikes and surveillance -- both of which came after public pressure -- and renewed his 2008 stalled campaign pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the commander-in-chief also said the U.S. military must continue chasing al-Qaeda and terrorism spreading out from the Middle East into Africa and beyond.
“The fact is, that danger remains,” Obama said, addressing Congress on Tuesday. “While we have put al-Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al-Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks.”
It’s a clear indication of what’s to come for the Pentagon and American troops, most of whom are being pulled from Afghanistan, while striking or aiding others fighting elsewhere.
Notably absent from Obama’s list is Egypt and the man the Pentagon hopes will become the George Washington of the Middle East, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Despite dozens of phone calls and the gift of a biography on Washington from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel over the past months, Sisi just announced he would trade his uniform for a suit and run for president. But the U.S. has kept an arms-length in Egypt, and has kept American troops firmly out of the worsening internal conflicts in Syria and Iraq. It’s the administration’s policy of wait-and-see containment, rather than intervention, that the White House and senior military leaders have embraced.
“We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As commander-in-chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us -- large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.”
“Even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing.”