By banishing the phrase "war on terror" in 2009, the Obama administration complicated its public case. But it substitutes language that serves the same legal and moral purpose. "As a matter of international law," White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan recently affirmed, "the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense." The administration's anti-terrorism strategy — from drone strikes to indefinite detention — depends on the existence of an "armed conflict" in which the laws of war, instead of the methods of criminal justice, prevail.
It is easy for conservatives to cry hypocrisy. But it is a good thing that the Obama administration is publicly recognizing a strategic reality impervious to ideology.
In the drone debate, all play their part. It is the role of human rights groups to raise ethical questions. It is the role of political opposition to second-guess Obama's choices. It is the role of the president to protect the American people from violence within the rules of war, which is exactly what he is doing.
Michael Gerson's email address is email@example.com.
- My view: History lesson — 'Taking back'...
- In our opinion: Boy Scouts of America and...
- In our opinion: With caucus compromise, Utah...
- John Florez: Education — Big government...
- Letter: A 'dying' document
- In our opinion: Prison relocation iffy
- Letter: Religious freedom
- Was Hillary right to compare Putin to Hitler?
- Letter: Minimum Wage insufficient 67
- Has Obama's foreign policy emboldened... 62
- Jay Evensen: Obama could use a dose of... 60
- Letter: Religious freedom 53
- In our opinion: Boy Scouts of America... 32
- Sen. Ted Cruz opens 2014 CPAC with... 30
- Was Hillary right to compare Putin to... 30
- Senate defeats Obama in Justice nod 21