Andrew Rosenthal: Obama's War on Terror Is Less Scary Than Bush's Because It Will End. Someday.

New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal, who last April argued that Barack Obama's abuses of executive power are less appalling than George W. Bush's because they are necessary, is now suggesting that Obama's war on terrorism is less scary than Bush's because it will end someday. Maybe. Rosenthal highlights a recent speech by Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel (and, not at all incidentally, "a good friend of mine") as evidence that we need no longer worry about an "Orwellian war without end" in which "real vigilance and necessary action will become an excuse for government intrusion into our lives, the erosion of our civil liberties and the maiming of our sons and daughters." To his credit, Rosenthal disagrees with Johnson about the propriety of summary execution and indefinitine military detention as responses to terrorism, but he holds out hope because Johnson, while defending such policies, also said this:

"War" must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. War permits one man—if he is a "privileged belligerent," consistent with the laws of war—to kill another. War violates the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war parents bury their children. In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the "new normal." Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives.

So when can we expect this war to end? On that point Johnson is a bit hazy:

In the current conflict with al Qaeda, I can offer no prediction about when this conflict will end, or whether we are, as Winston Churchill described it, near the "beginning of the end."

I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point—a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.

At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an "armed conflict" against al Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community—with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats.

That sounds more like a de-escalation than an armistice, occurring at some indefinite point in the future, almost certainly after Obama has left office. Even if we assume that Johnson's pretty words resonate with Obama, that does not mean they will have any impact on his policies, let alone those of his successors.

But for Rosenthal, the main point is that Johnson's avowed distaste for war sets him apart from the less enlightened folks who are not part of his social circle. "It's important to note," Rosenthal writes, "that there are many people—sadly, many of them Republicans—who would not agree with this. They believe that a 'military approach' to terrorism is always the right one and that to argue otherwise shows weakness." Does anyone really believe that Rosenthal is sad to once again point out that Democrats are morally superior to Republicans? 

It has been a while since I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, but as I recall the rulers of Oceania never declare, "We are engaging in an Orwellian war without end." They always present the conflict as winnable and therefore endable, just not right now. So everyone waits for the "tipping point" that never comes.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  • WTF||

    I'm pretty sure the 'tipping point' for Rosenthal will come the day after the R's win back the White House.

  • Skip||

    Team Blue dickheads like this guy are such a cheap date. If only Rumsfeld talked like a college professor......

  • romulox||

    We're already living in 1984.

    http://rt.com/usa/news/surveil.....izens-178/

  • fish||

    ....Proles and animals are free.

  • ||

    Rosenthal was called a writer
    dum dum dum dum dum
    He followed the TEAM BLUE religion
    dum dum dum dum dum

  • BarryD||

    LOL

    That episode never gets old, either.

  • RBS||

    Why do these people always look like they just wandered in off the streets? Is it because their grotesque personalities manifests in an equally grotesque appearance?

  • Hyperion||

    Have you seen the typical liberal woman? I think you are on to something here...

  • Mike M.||

    That's the unmistakable facial expression of a mainstream media guy in the early stages of jerking himself off to the thought of his Dear Leader's nutsack slapping him in his giant double chin. Thank goodness it's only a head shot.

  • Randian||

    Why do these people always look like they just wandered in off the streets? Is it because their grotesque personalities manifests in an equally grotesque appearance?

    Because it's Ayn Rand's world and we're just living in it.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Not enough angular too rounded.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    We are a nation of men not laws.

  • ||

    They offered the world ORDER!

  • T||

    They offer the world ordure, maybe.

  • ||

    Odour. They proffer the world odour. It's a common misquote.

  • ||

    I thought it was world ordure?

  • ||

    It is, Kaptious One. The French, however, along with most denizens of Euro-landia, eschew deodourant. -)

  • Hugh Akston||

    Epi, your attempt spark another Wrath of Khan thread has failed.

  • ||

    Hugh, I'm laughing at your superior intellect. m)

  • Hugh Akston||

    I've done far worse than kill you, Doc. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive...buried alive...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No, the game's not over...

  • entropy||

    Actually in 1984 the whole thing was kind of a sham, the powers waged endless war just for the sake of blowing shit up to make work and unloading surplus population.

    They didn't really sell it by claiming the war with Eastasia was winnable, they just said we've always been at war with eastasia.

    You know, existential struggle, clash of civilizations, the eternal enemy of the Sabine, who's very existence serves no purpose but to oppose yours.

  • entropy||

    Sort of like the Military-Industrial Complex meets the Prison Guard Union.

    So.... basically, reality.

    NOT blow up Afghanistan? What about all the JERBS!?!

  • $park¥||

    They didn't really sell it by claiming the war with Eastasia was winnable, they just said we've always been at war with eastasia.

    This is correct. As I recall, there is never any mention by anybody in the book that the war might be over one day.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Part 3, Chapter 6

    The news had run round the streets like magic. He could hear just enough of what was issuing from the telescreen to realize that it had all happened, as he had foreseen; a vast seaborne armada had secretly assembled a sudden blow in the enemy's rear, the white arrow tearing across the tail of the black. Fragments of triumphant phrases pushed themselves through the din: 'Vast strategic manoeuvre -- perfect co-ordination -- utter rout -- half a million prisoners -- complete demoralization -- control of the whole of Africa -- bring the war within measurable distance of its end victory -- greatest victory in human history -- victory, victory, victory!'
  • ||

    Yeah, it would be waves of conflict and "victory". Right after the "victory" phase, another enemy/ally formulation would be put into play, and the whole thing would basically repeat.

  • Hyperion||

    The war on terror must go on forever, because if not, the terrorists win, Mmkay?

  • $park¥||

    War permits one man—if he is a "privileged belligerent," consistent with the laws of war—to kill another. War violates the natural order of things

    This guy is not really familiar with how nature works, is he?

  • Hyperion||

    If only you could see the great vision of the progressives, you would already know that during the second term of the savior, lions will lie down beside of lambs, and all that jazz. Nature has only been violent forever because of the GOP.

  • $park¥||

    Well I suppose if you believe a certain line of thinking then GOD DID IT! And if God, then GOP. So you may be right.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It will 100,000 years to undo all of the bad things that Bush did (and TEAM Blue has voted to keep in place).

  • R C Dean||

    Wow. That is just gobsmackingly stupid on so, so, so many levels.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "look what you made me do!"

  • Jordan||

    More evidence that the media is in the tank for the God Emperor.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In the axlotl tank?

  • ||

    You know, since those things were basically gigantic uteri, were they entitled to child support of some kind, Pro'L Dib? Did they have any sort of parental rights?

  • Pro Libertate||

    No and no.

  • Hyperion||

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a poll asking what people, given 2 choices, would say they fear most in their daily lives, terrorists or the US government?

  • BarryD||

    Say what you will, no terrorist will be taking any money out of my paycheck this Friday, before I even see it.

  • BarryD||

    (Well, depending on how you define 'terrorist', which of course makes your original question a bit ambiguous...)

  • Hyperion||

    Scary Mooslims who blow shit up, of course. Not the terrorists who post on Reason, have read Ayn Rand and liked it, and have more than 7 days worth of canned goods in their home. Obviously those are on a level of scary that is too scary for the poll

  • BarryD||

    What I mean is that, if you define "terrorists" as "those who kill large numbers of civilians for political purposes, kidnap and imprison people as symbols, to instill fear" it clouds the distinction between the US Government and the Scary Mooslims.

  • Hyperion||

    I would opt to take my chances with the scary Mooslims.

  • some guy||

    I would opt to take my chances with the scary Mooslims.

    In America, at least, they are greatly outnumbered by government employees...

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Terrorists also don't build roads for you to use or intimidate criminals.

  • BarryD||

    They would if I lived in Afghanistan.

  • sarcasmic||

    Considering what the TSA gets away with, I'm sure the vast majority fears the terrorists.

    Of, by, and for the People means we are government. You vote, don't you? That makes you part of government.

    Just as if the mafiosos who extort money from your business allowed you to choose from a multiple choice list of guidos to vote for who the next mob boss would be, that would make you a made-man, would it not?

    Sadly, many people feel this way.

  • BarryD||

    It's illegal to say bad things about the TSA when you're in an airport. So maybe they just fear the TSA and its near-absolute and arbitrary power.

  • John Thacker||

    And then did it two different times and compared the answers based on which party was President and the party of the respondent?

    A bunch of liberals who were more scared of the US Government when it was Bush-Cheney are now perfectly alright with Obama-Biden doing exactly the same thing.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a poll asking what people, given 2 choices, would say they fear most in their daily lives, terrorists or the US government?

    Gallup: from 2011

    US Gov:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/151.....Level.aspx

    Terrorism:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/149.....Point.aspx

  • MissMalevolent||

    *eyeroll* These cultists are fucking morons.

  • Fluffy||

    a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States

    The 9/11 attacks required 19 men. They bought box cutters for themselves for under bucks. They all bought first class plane tickets, call that 35 grand. And some of them took partial pilot lessons - call that 20 grand.

    Add in some hotel stays and round the total up generously. We can call it 100 grand.

    So this guy says he foresees a time when there are so few religious extremists who hate the US loose in the world that they can't scrape together 19 guys and $100,000.

    That's a pathologically absurd statement.

    It's like saying that one day religious extremists will have been so attrited that their worldwide assets in men and cash will be insufficient to open a Dunkin Donuts franchise.

    I bet at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend this year the entourages of some individual players will send more guys and spend more money at ONE STRIP CLUB IN ONE NIGHT than it cost to undertake the 9/11 attacks.

    But this guy tells us the war will end when Al Qaeda is smaller and broker than an NBA player's entourage.

    It's a fucking joke.

  • ||

    There should be a special cognitive dissonance award to hand out to people like this.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Bush declared war and invaded two (2) countries; Afghanistan (which was arguably hiding the Al Q'eda command structure) and Iraq (with which we had unfinished business; when a country that has ostensibly surrendered does not meet the terms of surrender the war remains unfinished). bush - to the rage of a lot of the Flag-Waving Right - declined to get involved in Palestine, or to invade Syria, or to bother with Iran … although a case could be made for all three.

    So, how come Bush's war is supposedly without an end in sight, and Obamaramadingdong's war isn't? Obama seems ready to involve us in every Middle East piss-up going.

    We are headed straight for an Imperial America. Bush is going to get the blame, but Jug-Ears is going to be the one that did it.

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