It was no coincidence that U.S. President Barack Obama held his speech on the new dynamic of the war on terror last Thursday, only a few days before Memorial Day, the U.S. holiday dedicated to the nation’s fallen soldiers.
Obama knows that the country is war-weary almost 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, and further casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan would be hard to justify to the public. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has no desire for new military engagements, as he has demonstrated with his restraint in the Syrian conflict. Analysis of the fine print in Obama’s speech, in which he once again allowed his reluctance to pursue violent courses of action against suspected extremists to be seen, indicates that the president also wants the use of drones, a practice that has been heavily criticized in foreign countries, to come to a stop.
The changes Obama has made to the policies detailing the rules for kill missions from the air are nearly insurmountable. One of these parameters states that the government would have to be virtually certain that no civilians were in danger of being hit by an airstrike. In addition, targets must now represent a “continuing, imminent threat” for the U.S.
Obama has clearly begun communicating to his generals that he wants to avoid any military strategies that would put him at political risk in the future. Moreover, members of the al-Qaida leadership now know that they merely need to surround themselves with civilians to be safe from annihilation from the air. Obama’s unambiguous policy is not smart military strategy.
It is also astonishing that one topic was neglected in the remarks by the president, namely, the threat from weapons of mass destruction that could fall into the hands of terrorists or extremist groups such as Hezbollah. These weapons represent the greatest imaginable threat, yet this threat did not merit a single word from Obama.