Opinion: Bringing end to war is an Obama fantasy

June 1, 2013


— “This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises ...”

— Barack Obama, May 23

Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street.

That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, two to end it. By surrender (World War II), by armistice (Korea and Vietnam) or when the enemy simply disappears from the field (the Cold War).

Obama says enough is enough. He doesn’t want us on “a perpetual wartime footing.” Well, the Cold War lasted 45 years. The war on terror, 12 so far. By Obama’s calculus, we should have declared the Cold War over in 1958 and left Western Europe, our Pacific allies, the entire free world to fend for itself — and consigned Eastern Europe to endless darkness.

John F. Kennedy summoned the nation to the burdens of the long twilight struggle. Obama, agonizing publicly about the awful burdens of command (which he twice sought in election), wants out. For him and for us.

He doesn’t just want to revise and update the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which many conservatives have called for. He wants to repeal it.

He admits that the AUMF establishes the basis both in domestic and international law to conduct crucial defensive operations, such as drone strikes. Why, then, abolish the authority to do what we sometimes need to do?

Because that will make the war go away? Persuade our enemies to retire to their caves?

This is John Lennon, bumper-sticker foreign policy — Imagine World Peace. Obama pretends that the tide of war is receding. But it’s demonstrably not. It’s metastasizing to Mali, to the Algerian desert, to the North African states falling under the Muslim Brotherhood, to Yemen, to the savage civil war in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon and destabilizing Jordan. Even Sinai, tranquil for 35 years, is descending into chaos.

It’s not war that’s receding. It’s America. Under Obama. And it is precisely in the power vacuum left behind that war is rising. Obama declares Assad must go. The same wish-as-policy fecklessness from our bystander president. Two years — and 70,000 dead — later, Obama keeps repeating the wish even as the tide of battle is altered by the new arbiters of Syria’s future — Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Where does every party to the Syrian conflict go on bended knee? To Moscow, as Washington recedes into irrelevance.

But the ultimate expression of Obama’s Dorothy Doctrine is Guantanamo. It must close. Must, mind you.

OK. Let’s accept the dubious proposition that the Yemeni prisoners could be sent home without coming back to fight us. And that others could be convicted in court and put in U.S. prisons.

Now the rub. Obama openly admits that “even after we take these steps one issue will remain — just how to deal with those Gitmo detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted.”

Well, yes. That’s always been the problem with Gitmo. It’s not a question of geography. The issue is indefinite detention — whether at Gitmo, a Colorado supermax or St. Helena.

Can’t try ‘em, can’t release ‘em. Having posed the central question, what is Obama’s answer? “I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved.”

That’s it! I kid you not. He’s had four-plus years to think this one through — and he openly admits he’s got no answer.

Because there is none. Hence the need for Gitmo. Other wars end, at which point prisoners are repatriated. But in this war, the other side has no intention of surrender or armistice. They will fight until the caliphate is established or until jihadism is as utterly defeated as fascism and communism. That’s the reason — the only reason — for the detention conundrum. There is no solution to indefinite detention when the detainees are committed to indefinite war.

Obama’s fantasies are twinned. He can no more wish the detention away than he can the war.

We were defenseless on 9/11 because, despite bin Laden’s open written declaration of war in 1996, we pretended for years that no war against us had even begun. Obama would return us to pre-9/11 defenselessness — casting Islamist terror as a law-enforcement issue and removing the legal basis for treating it as armed conflict — by pretending that the war is over.

It’s enough to make you weep.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Abdu Omar 4 years, 9 months ago

Never, and I mean never, does any of these "journalists" understand the reason for the terrorist's war. What Muslim wants a Caliphate? What is a Caliphate, you ask? That is where the entire Muslim world is under one leader, elected by a group of representatives of each of the countries and all laws and practices are dictated from above using Islamic Jurisprudence. I am not saying that is bad, but what about the fact that what is good in one part may not be in another. The use of shariah law, which Americans don't understand and therefore are afraid of it, is not a bad thing because justice is the operative word, but whose justice and whose culture will practice the justice. Saudi Arabia? Where women can't drive or go out unless accompanied by a relative male. How funny in our society and others who practice Western culture. The list goes on and on and that is why most Muslims oppose the concept of a Caliphate and the terrorists have no support.

The second reason for terrorism is the injustice in Palestine that the Israelis put upon the indigenous population. If this ended, so would terrorism because the Caliphate idea is a weak one and would only instrest Muslim countries which the US is not.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 9 months ago

Israel has always had a partner for peace but the conditions were that Israel stop building on Palestinian land. Israel is always building on someones land that doesn't belong to them. What is with that, Ron? The Pals are ready if the kibbutz building is stopped. So Israel said, No, No, No, No and started building more and more and more. Get a grip, Ron and see the truth, not their talking points.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 9 months ago

wounded, you say Israel has always had a partner in peace, but is that really true? In the pre-1967 years, obviously the potential partners were those countries that shared a border with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. None of those countries sought peace with Israel and were rebuffed whenever Israel sought accommodation with them. In the time immediately after 1967, when it was not yet clear that Jordan would relinquish it's claim to the West Bank and Egypt would relinquish it's clam to Gaza, it was again the Arab country's official policy of no recognition, no negotiation, no peace. (The infamous Khartoum three no's). So no, wounded, Israel did not have a partner in peace during that time.

Do they now? Here's the deal, wounded. For any group seeking to be a legitimate voice of it's people, it must control the actions of those people. You mention Israel building on land that is not theirs. It's a legitimate concern. Those builders were not rogue Jewish settlers, for the most part. And even when those rogue settlers did build, it was/is the responsibility of Israel to control it's people. That's precisely why you can legitimately say that the settlements are the actions of Israel.

Now look at the actions of the Palestinians. For them to have a legitimate claim to be a peace partner, they too have to claim responsibility for the actions of their people. Whether that's groups who lob missiles into Israel, kill athletes at the olympics, or throw disabled Jews off cruise ships while still in their wheelchairs, these must be seen as the actions of that peace partner. Just as every settlement, every incursion into Palestinian land, every bulldozer that tears down a Palestinian home is the action of Israel.

So if Israel and whichever Palestinian group now seeks to be the legitimate voice of their respective peoples want to be considered legitimate peace partners, each must be ready willing and able to control the actions of their own people and/or punish them when they do not. If Israel is ever expected to remove settlements as a condition of peace, the Palestinians must be able to control their people. For that to happen, the Palestinians cannot have one group claiming to be the voice of it's people in the West Bank and speaking of peace under certain conditions while there is another group in Gaza that speaks of never accepting peace, never accepting Israel's right to exist. As long as those conditions exist, and despite your claims, wounded, that Israel has always had a partner in peace, that is not the case.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh, never mind, since any response I might make to this blatantly inflammatory post would be censored, anyway.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes, it was blatantly inflammatory to elect an Arab for Miss Israel, blatantly inflammatory to elect 66 Arabs and Druze to the Knesset, and blatantly inflammatory to allow an Arab woman to serve in the IDF to defend her homeland.

Equal rights for all citizens are blatantly inflammatory, I do understand your position.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 9 months ago

How much was she paid to say this? More propaganda, Ron?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 9 months ago

Clipped from: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4389583,00.html

The majority of Arab-Israeli citizens will tell you they have it pretty good, and would prefer living in Israel than in an Arab country. Moreover, a couple of years ago, when the PA threatened to annex eastern Jerusalem, the Israeli Office of Immigration was flooded with Arabs wanting to apply for Israeli citizenship. What does that tell you?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

At your usual whitewashing and finger-pointing (at anyone but Israel) I see.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 9 months ago

First The Brittish give you land they don't own, then you take it and kill the inhabitants. I have been there, I saw it with my own eyes. IF you doubt it go, to Palestine and see what you see. They are the true victims of Israeli aggression. Israelis are not the victims although they want the world to believe they are through they control of the Media.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 9 months ago

First, the British gave you land they didn't own ... Who did own the land, wounded? The British came to occupy that land after WW I, having taken it from the Ottoman Empire. Was it their land? Or was it land of the empire that ruled before that, or before that, or before that?

Pick a date in history, wounded, one that is absurdly arbitrary. Pick a date in history that suits all your purposes. And I will pick an equally absurd date, one that meets my purposes. And we can argue about the merits of why your date or mine is the better date. Our children can argue and their children. We will be long forgotten while future generations argue. Or we can discuss how we get from where we are today to be where we can be tomorrow. Not where we want to be, but where we can be.

BTW - statements that "they" control the media are below contempt, wounded, and show a persistent and continuing pattern of racist thoughts in your posts. It diminishes the legitimate points you do make.

verity 4 years, 9 months ago

He's a neocon . . .

Unending war with us peons as canon fodder and people like Mr Krauthammer in control of everything.

That's why the war on education---well, at least one of the reasons. The religious right has made a pact with the devil, being snookered by the neocons who could care less about religion except as they can use it for their ends.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

No more like....IRS, Libya, etc is all FOX news folks want to hear coming thru a narrow filter. President Obama could say that it is Sunday, and you would say he is changing the subject. The Repubs are happy for these topics because it is yet another distraction to take us away from solving other problems at hand.

I think the American people are really starting to see them as pathetic and angry old geezers who want to see this administration fail and without regard for its citizens.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

Neocons never met a war they didn't love. And if there aren't enough wars going on at any given time, they start one.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

That's because their handlers and them make lots of money from war. And with the Bush tax cuts they got to keep even more of the profits. And they don't have to send their own children to war. What a deal, right?

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 9 months ago

Charles is blind. If you want to end the war on terror, you have to start a new war...on ignorance and poverty. But, being a GOP hack, he doesn't understand that. In fact,he is part of the GOP perpetuate ignorance and poverty effort. We should be building schools in Afganistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. We should open our borders to those seeking an education with the intent of exporting knowledge to the rest of the world. But, alas the new GOP mantra is to oppose the common core standards to improve education in this country and they systematically underfund education too. The GOP also is undermining workers rights domestically rather than supporting efforts to raise wages and worker safety abroad. How does charles get to keep his column when he just doesn't get it?

verity 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh, I think he gets it very well. Just more neocon disinformation and vitriol. These guys never saw a lie they didn't like.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises ...”

Why critique this statement from President Obama? Doesn't any sane person desire the ending of a war? Doesn't any soldier desire to come home? To end the ancient malady and waste that a war is?

Charles K is a propagandist and a war pig, sitting safely at his desk writing this trash. This is the stuff that perpetuates wars. Taking the notion that bombs and putting men at risk is the way to go, rather than seeking an underlying cause for this war.

As for me, I like the president's notion far more than the fear monger who wrote this article.

danmoore 4 years, 9 months ago

The military view of people like Krauthammer and McCain is economically unsustainable. Virtually every war we’ve been involved in since the end of WWII has been a mistake. I pray we stay out of Syria.

James Minor 4 years, 9 months ago

Obama is moving America in the right direction. It is time to come home. Economically, physically and mentally, Americans are tired and we need a rest. Our military can't protect the world and should not. There are some battles and wars America needs to stay out of and let those countries settle it on their own. America should change the foreign policy on countries that ask for our financial and military help, but have a history of turning against us in later years, and start to refuse helping them or reducing the funding. The war on drugs, health and economic problems Americans deal with on our own soil require more attention. It is time to put the focus on those issues!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

The irony of this column is that Obama's foreign/military policy over the next few years will likely much more closely resemble the permanent war agenda that Chuck wants than any sort of a peace agenda, but you can bet that Chuck will never let loose any sort of praise towards the Kenyan Democrat for that.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Where did the author ask for a permanent war agenda??

Sounds more like you have an agenda.

verity 4 years, 9 months ago

Have you read/studied what neo-conservatism is? Or read Project for a New American Century?

woodscolt 4 years, 9 months ago

Krauthammer fantasies include fantasizing that others fantasize as much as he does. Neocons don't like it when you talk smack on their war fantasies. More wars More wars we need more wars. Sooner the better.

pizzapete 4 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Krauthammer talks like ending or avoiding war and wanting peace are bad things. War should be a last resort used only when all other options have been exhausted. We need to compromise with those we disagree with to find common ground so we can end political stagnation and armed confrontation. War is nothing more than failed diplomacy. I applaud Obama for trying to use diplomacy to resolve conflicts instead of rushing to war. Whatever happened to our policy of "talk softly, but carry a big stick"? The world knows we've got the stick, Mr. Krauthammer has forgot you're supposed to talk first before reaching for the stick.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 9 months ago

Krauthammer desperately wants to give terrorists exactly what they want which is free publicity even when the definition of a terrorist can be vague and very confused at times.

It makes sense to start being more careful about how we respond to terrorism and how we define individual acts associated with terrorism if we ever hope to deny them the platform they seek. Looking at the costs in lives and property and national resources (including international good will) we don't look too smart.

This is the discussion we should be having in Washington. Republicans are just giving terrorists exactly what they want and making our country look weak.

Charles Fogarty 4 years, 9 months ago

Typical mean-spirited neo-con war-mongering. And what's up with all the Wizard of Oz references? As Glinda said, Dorothy always had the capability to go home. Obama is saying we can end this 9/11 War if we want to. And as far as being defenseless on 9/11/2001, it was Krauthammer's boys, Cheney and Bush who were in charge.

Patricia Davis 4 years, 9 months ago

Don't we all remember when President Bush stood on the deck of the ship after his fly-in stunt announcing to the world: Mission Accomplished?

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Boy! All I read is that wars are not unilateral. Now I realize there is a bunch on here that blame all wars on us and therefore if we just stopped fighting all wars would end.

That notion is belied by all the wars of one sort or another going on in the world in which we have no participation. It seems people can find things to fight about without our help.

There were wars before we existed and I suspect there will be wars after we are gone. It is unfortunately human nature to covet thy neighbor.

I fall back on Plato: ”Only the dead have seen the end of war”

Calling the author a name does not reduce the value of his observations. By the by, I did not read Mr. Obama to declare the end of all wars. I did read him to say we may need to be much more selective at choosing which ones to fight – not a bad idea..

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

"All I read is that wars are not unilateral."

The invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and others too numerous to mention, were wholly unilateral.

"Calling the author a name does not reduce the value of his observations."

Well, you haven't managed to point out any value to his observations.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

That is your unsubstantiated opinion.

Why do I have to prove anybodies opinion has value. In our society that is presumed.

verity 4 years, 9 months ago

You are mistaking the right to have an opinion with that opinion having value.

Yes, everybody has the right to his/her opinion, but it IS NOT presumed that an opinion has value just because someone thinks it. For an opinion to have value, it has to be supported by facts.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

I see no value in the author's (if you can call him that) opinion, other than he is an example of a propaganda writer who is too blind to see the devastation of war. The people are sick and tired of this war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And it is really no longer about terrorism. It is about trying to right the huge screw up we got into by going there in the 1st place and overturning what semblance of order existed in those countries. You don't invade an entire country to fight terrorism for crying out loud. That is way overboard.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 9 months ago

An end to war is what all sane people hope for. It is not fantasy.

Let's hope we always have leaders who still know that hope is an essential part of a great nation's character and defines much of what made this country admired.

Republicans need to listen to Bob Dole.

Start by getting rid of Krauthammer and his childish commentary. We need honest opinions and an intelligent perspective. He offers nothing but hatefulness. He lost his credibility long ago.

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Terrorists should be treated as nothing but the violent petty criminals they are. They aren't any different than gang bangers. We let them raise themselves to freedom fighters, but gang members could be raised up to freedom fighters too, if we put them there. I mean they are just defending their territory. But in realty they are just low life criminals and should be dealt with as such. The intelligence agencies need to infiltrate these groups, just like undercover police officers do, and figure out what they are up to then stop them. In our country, arrest them, in other countries, send in the drones if they are in a country that won't arrest them. But take away their label as terrorists and/or freedom fighters. That will make it less attractive to those lacking something in life.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Hey Bozo, jayhawklawrence, Trumbull, tomatogrower

Is there anything for which you would fight

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

By fight I assume you mean war. That would be the most important decision I ever make if it came up. Your question does not deserve an answer.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Really??? You seem to be advocating that there is nothing. Am I wrong?

tomatogrower 4 years, 9 months ago

Nothing wrong that a conventional war will take care of. Look at my post above. It needs to be taken care of by our intelligence agencies. There is no one country out to kill us. It's a bunch of extremist gangs. They live here there and everywhere. It's not like your fighting another army.

And would I fight for the rebels in Syria? No, it's there country. Besides, we supported rebels in Afghanistan and they in turn protected Al Queda. We actually should have supported the Soviet Union in this case. They already knew the nutcase radicals were worse than their own Stalin.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago


What has has that got to do with believing that nothing is worth fighting for. We are not in Syria.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 9 months ago

You must be feeling your beer muscles today.

Don't drink and drive.

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