I liked what President Obama said in his national security speech the other day. I thought it was amazingly courageous for him to talk in terms of ending the war on terror, if for no other reason than that it could literally blow up in his face. It’s so much easier and expedient to do what Bush and Cheney did, and just frighten everyone out of his wits.
I’m glad he decided to put more limits on the use of drones, without barring their use altogether. Terrorism was so frightening because of its asymmetrical effectiveness; all our troops and tanks couldn’t defend against a guy and a bomb. Drones are an effective antidote: we don’t have to deploy 50,000 troops, we don’t have to kill thousands of civilians, we don’t have to smash millions of dollars worth of infrastructure, we don’t end up with thousands of ex-soldiers with PSDT abecoming alcoholics and abusing their wives, we don’t have to stand in endless lines at airports and let TSA agents pat down grandma’s breasts; we just deprive the leadership of safety. It’s necessary that we be careful in its use; it’s essential that we do not rely on it casually. But we should be proud that our military has found a way to protect us, and to bring an end to the war on terror.
I’m also glad that the president spoke up about closing GuantÃ¡namo. Every hour that it remains open adds to our shame. Some kind of embarrassing overreaction has happened every time we suffer a national freak out–the Palmer Raids, the internment of the Japanese, McCarthyism, and now GuantÃ¡namo. We tell ourselves that our fear justifies the abrogation of our very best values, and off we go, trampling on people. Do you have any doubt that our grandchildren will shake their head in embarrassment at our actions? I don’t. Will they repeat our mistakes when they have a freak-out moment of their own? God, I hope not.