Following President Obama’s speech last week on the drone war and counter-terrorism policy, Republicans and the media have framed it as some sort of dovish shift to end of the war on terror, when it was anything but.
For years the GOP had a difficult time constructing offensive political rhetoric against Obama’s overall foreign policy, the major obstacle being that Obama really adopted much of George W. Bush’s approach, except with much less financial and political cost.
But now that Obama has explicitly denounced “perpetual war,” Republicans are on the attack. Senator Lindsey Graham criticized Obama’s “lack of resolve, talking about the war being over.”
“Wishing the defeat of terrorists does not make it so,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX). Thornberry claims Obama’s was an attempt to “simply declare al-Qaida beaten and go back to the pre-9/11 era.”
But even as Obama condemned perpetual war, he staunchly defended his drone war.
Counter-terrorism policy under Obama has largely centered on the targeted killing program. And contrary to Obama’s insinuation that he intends to roll it back, his administration has been codifying it for the long term.
“Among senior Obama administration officials,” Greg Miller reported in The Washington Post last year, “there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade” which is a “timeline [that] suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
Miller documents “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
The Republicans are playing politics with Obama’s speech, proud to be the party championing perpetual war. But Obama’ actual policies are not antithetical to the pro-war GOP.