Another speech, another omission – President Obama’s Inaugural AddressPosted: January 22, 2013 Filed under: Biological, Chemical, Conventional, Miscellaneous, Nuclear 6 Comments
I just read President Obama’s inaugural address and I was surprised to find no reference whatsoever to disarmament and non-proliferation, which played an important role in Obama’s first four years. I also found that declaring that ‘We [the US] will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms’ was a bit too belligerent (but, to be fair, he mentions the rule of law too). And what ‘decade of war’ is ending? I assume the reference is to the ‘war on terror’, an unfortunate expression that is obviously hard to get rid of.
I rather suspect the “decade of war” was a (rough) reference to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the fact that “the NATO-led ISAF Forces will hand over command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013.” It could be in reference to the war in Iraq as well.* I don’t think it’s a reference to the “war on terror,” however unfortunate the locution, as the Administration is loath to abandon the phrase (what the Washington Post called back in October of last year ‘the permanent war’) as long as it sees itself involved in “an armed conflict against al Qaeda and associated forces, to which the laws of armed conflict apply,” in the words of Jeh Charles Johnson, General Counsel of the U.S. Dept. of Defense. However, unlike the notion of a “permanent war,” it seems Johnson believes there will come a “tipping point” at which we can envision the end of this particular armed conflict while still engaged in “a counterterrorism effort against individuals….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.” If we assume that “armed conflict” is what justifies the expression “war on terror,” then an end to that war is envisioned. Nonetheless, war metaphors are obdurate and fairly commonplace in public discourse in this country (e.g., ‘war on poverty,’ ‘war on drugs,’ ‘war on working famililes,’ ‘Republican war on science,’ and so forth, as well as the many metaphors derived from the meaning of war), so I suspect, alas, the “war on terror” will persist long after the possible end of this particular “armed conflict.”
* See, for instance, this post by Deborah Pearlstein at Opinio Juris: http://opiniojuris.org/2012/11/09/a-decade-of-war-is-ending/
Thanks, Patrick. It seems that the reference to the ‘decade of war’ is a recurring element in President Obama’s speeches. And of course, it might well refer to the conflict in Afghanistan, although in that case it would have been more accurate to state that the decade of war is ending for the United States only, as it continues in Afghanistan.
This is a good observation, Marco. After all, he did win the Nobel Prize for his focus on disarmament early in his first term. For good or for bad, I think he has other things on his mind now. I thought the analysis of his speech at this link was quite interesting. http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/21/opinion/stewart-obama-inaugural-speech/
Hi Dan, thanks for the tip. I guess we will just have to wait and see what Obama will do for disarmament in his second term. The expectations are high.
David Hoffman on Arms Control:
Notice he also couldn’t admit that the US totally LOST the Afghan war, even as it lost the Iraq war.
Nor can he admit that the only reason the US hasn’t attacked Iran yet is because he’s too scared to be BLAMED for starting yet another US Mid-East war due to his woefully undeserved Peace Prize.
So instead he is trying to squeeze Iran enough to cause it to retaliate in some manner he can use to “justify” attacking Iran. Expect a naval blockade in 2013 or 2014 spun as an “extension” of his unilateral sanctions regime rather than the act of war it is.