Tonawanda News

Columns

May 26, 2013

DUVALL: Obama is right, wartime mentality must end

Tonawanda News — President Obama’s national security speech Thursday was a refreshing change of pace for a war-weary nation and a major break from the policies put in place by George W. Bush and continued through Obama’s own first term.

It’s about time an American president stated the obvious: Our society’s moral and legal constructs — much less our nation’s material wealth — cannot survive perpetual war. Furthermore, we need sharper focus on what can be done to make us safer, which will require a new set of rules for a new era in the fight against Islamic extremists. 

The bumper sticker takeaway from the speech is that the Bush-era “war on terror” is over. That seems misleading in some respects. We will still, of course, have to fight al Qaida. We are still in danger of terrorist attacks. In that sense, the fight will never be over.

But what must end is the wartime mentality.

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” Obama said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.”

In a year we will be out of Afghanistan. Iraq has largely receded into the background of America’s consciousness — though the brutal violence unleashed once Saddam’s lid on that multiethnic pressure cooker of a nation still rages on.

Recent news events remind us we’re still very much in need of active surveillance but we face new threats. Terrorists can no longer act with the impunity necessary to plot out a 9/11-style attack. As the Boston Marathon bombings ruefully made clear, we’ve entered the age of the do-it-yourself Jihadist. 

To answer that threat, we need our intelligence community to get back to its core mission — gathering and analyzing intelligence. While there have certainly been merits to the CIA’s covert drone program operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it ultimately makes sense for spies to do the snooping and soldiers to do the killing, not the other way around.

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