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Opening Arguments

War's end

Wow. While I was on R & R and not paying attention, it looks like the war on terror ended:

Out with the global war on terror. In with more narrowly targeted counterterrorism policies that persistently zero in on violent extremists at home and abroad.

President Barack Obama on Thursday laid out a counterterrorism strategy for a post 9/11, postwar world that he said seeks to strike the right balance between providing security and safeguarding civil rights in an open society. He said that plan includes more oversight of U.S. drone strikes, shutting down the U.S. detainee center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and safeguarding press freedom.

Rejecting the notion of a boundless "global war on terror" as outmoded, Obama sketched a picture of future terror threats that looks more like the days prior to Sept. 11, 2001 _ smaller in scale and more diffuse. He spoke of "lethal, yet less capable al-Qaida affiliates," homegrown extremists, and attacks on businesses and diplomatic outposts abroad. But he said that overall, the U.S. is safer and more secure.

This move has some on the right nearly apoplectic. Charles Krauthammer says the president is adoping a juvenile, naive and dangerous policy of unilateral disarmament, and P.J. O'Rourke calls Obama the "commander in chief of stupid."

I confess to mixed feelings. Our enemies these days have shown a clear pattern of looking for signs of weakness and exploiting them. So the wishful thinking here -- if we pretend everying is OK, it will be -- is pretty dangerous stuff. But the "war on terror" seems by design to be one of those open-ended campaigns against an enemy it's hard to define precisely: The war on poverty, the war on crime, the war on drugs. There is no set goal except the outlandish ones (no more poor people, ever), so the conflict goes on and on. That doesn't seem like a sane policy for a real war inflicting real death on real people. This has to end sometime, but I'm not sure anybody can say for sure when and under what circumstances.

Maybe this is one of those times when it's wise to do something but not really make a big deal about it. Soften our terror policies a little, fine. Giving speeches announcing that to the world, not so much.