Drone clampdown as Obama rethinks US terror strategy
'Boundless' war on terror must come to an end says President as he seeks to balance freedom and security
BARACK OBAMA has insisted that the US can no longer mount "a boundless global war on terror" and has sought to redefine the country's counter-terrorism strategy as it prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, declaring that "America is at a crossroads".
In a speech on Thursday Obama pledged to cut back on drone attacks and reaffirmed his desire to come good on his election promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. According to The Times, the speech "amounted to a doctrine for the post-Afghanistan era".
The New York Times concurred, and described the address as "the most important statement on counter-terrorism policy since the 2001 attacks".
It added: "For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future."
The speech was an attempt to balance a requirement to protect US citizens with the need to adhere to the country's belief in freedom, said Greg Sergeant in the Washington Post.
"Obama's speech was less a substantial break from current policy than it was a newly ambitious effort to recalibrate policies on drones and the detention of terror suspects with the specific goal of reconciling them with American values," he wrote.
On the controversial subject of drones, Obama defended their use but, after introducing a new set of legal checks, added: "To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance."
The number of drone attacks is set to be reduced, and special courts will rule on targeted assassinations using the devices. Future missions will also be overseen by the US military rather than the CIA.
"The president, who currently has to personally sign off on targeted drone strikes outside the US, hopes the increased oversight will help bring his controversial programme of killings out of the legal shadows," said The Guardian.
Not everyone was convinced by the President’s vows. Obama "has a long record of broken promises and misleading rhetoric on civil liberties, and it would be naive to assume that he'll follow through on everything he said on Thursday," wrote Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic.
The speech was a battle between Obama's two personas, the "public idealist" and the "tight-lipped commander in chief", claimed Garrett Epps also on the Atlantic. They "duelled uneasily" in the speech at the National Defense University, he claimed.
And although Epps concluded that Obama the idealist shaded it, neither side could claim total victory. As the NYT wrote: "Republicans contended that Mr Obama was declaring victory prematurely and underestimating an enduring danger, while liberals complained that he had not gone far enough in ending what they see as the excesses of the Bush era."