But remember that he voted against going to war in Iraq. He inherited two ongoing wars, as well as the George W. Bush "War on Terror." Thursday, President Obama laid out his reasoning for ending, not only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the war on terror as well.
In doing so, constitutional law professor Obama also taught us a civics lesson about war powers and the presidency and about our need for security balanced with our desire for privacy.
This was a major speech that should go down in history as one of his best. The part I want to focus on is the war question. Here are the president words on this:
All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.He is calling for an end to the "war on terror," saying that we cannot continue to think in terms of being at war. As this point was condensed in a discussion of the speech on Chris Hayes' new show that night:
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
"Wars have beginnings and ends. When the conflict becomes endless, it ceases to be war and becomes something else."We will continue to deal with acts of terror with increasingly effective counter-terror tactics. But we need to think of our country as moving back to the position were were in before 9/11.
I think the president was less bold in this assertion than he could have been and than I wish he had been; but, given the hawkishness of most of his Republican opposition -- and the political necessity of getting the repeal of AUMF through Congress -- it was courageous of him to even address the possibility.