April 4, 2009
When reading Washington Post editorials, one often is reminded of the famous question from "Shawshank Redemption": "How can you be so obtuse?"
Of course, in the movie, the warden wasn't being "obtuse" as much as he was obfuscating and obstructing. And similarly, one has to wonder if the Post's apparent obtuseness is really something willful, that there is a method to the maddening stupidity.
Such was the case with the Post's lead editorial on April 4, "New Words of War," in which the newspaper's neoconservative editorial writers equate ex-President George W. Bush's "global war on terror" with President Barack Obama's more targeted strategy against al-Qaeda.
The Post apparently still won't accept that Bush's blunderbuss GWOT against "every terrorist group of global reach" was a geopolitical and constitutional disaster. Instead, by cherry-picking a few words here and there, the Post argues there's no real difference between Bush's conflict against all "terrorists"- everywhere and Obama's targeted assault on al-Qaeda and its allies along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
In criticizing the Obama administration for allegedly playing word games by dropping the GWOT phrasing, the Post was itself playing word games.
"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently confirmed that the Obama administration has dropped the phrase "-global war on terror,'" the Post wrote, adding:
"She didn't say why. "I think that speaks for itself. Obviously,' was her elaboration. That raised a few obvious questions: Does the new administration believe the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups doesn't amount to war? Is the threat to the U.S. homeland less, in President Obama's estimation, than that perceived by President George W. Bush? And does the United States still expect its NATO military allies to join in this newly unnamed, speaks-for-itself endeavor?"
But is the Post really that obtuse? What the change in wording means is that the Obama administration doesn't buy into Bush's apocalyptic vision that terrorism represents some new global phenomenon that requires waging endless war and obliterating the U.S. Constitution.
The new words mean that Obama is defining the threat from al-Qaeda in a much more limited way, thus offering a better prospect of victory without the sacrifices of blood, treasure and liberties that Bush's grandiose concept required in pursuit of some phantom security.
However, the Post editorialists drew other conclusions, citing Obama's comments April 3 at a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France.
"I think it's important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now President and George Bush is no longer President, al-Qaeda is still a threat," Obama said. "We believe that we cannot just win militarily [in Afghanistan and Pakistan]. But there will be a military component to it, and Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone."
To the Post's neocons, this statement was Obama channeling their hero, Bush, though they complained of the unjust result--that Obama won praise while Bush would have only encountered disdain.
"George W. Bush might have spoken those words, but Mr. Obama, in contrast to how his predecessor might have been received, was greeted with applause by his European audience,"- the editorial said.
The Post then summed up its case for believing that the anti-terrorist strategies of Obama and Bush were the same, except for the terminology.