The Presidents lomg road to peace and learning from US immigration policies

President Barack Obama’s speech last Thursday at the National Defense University (NDU) may turn out to be the most significant of his tenure. This was only the second speech the president has devoted to national security since he took office.    After four years of failing to make much progress toward closing Guantánamo, while increasingly relying on a drone war whose legality has often been questioned, Obama might have chosen to speak more cautiously in his NDU speech. Instead, he went much further, outlining a way out of this “perpetual war,” saying that “our democracy demands it.” Whether he can make good on this promise will very likely define his legacy.

The key to resuming a state of peace, Obama argued, lies in acknowledging our limitations. As he put it, “Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society…. We must be humble in our expectations.” Humility has never come easily to the United States or its presidents. But that humility is the foundation of peace.  Even as he defended his controversial use of drones to kill by remote control, Obama laid out a vision for countering terrorism in the future in which the use of force is truly a last resort. He stressed the importance of alternative tools, including law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, diplomacy, foreign aid, and more generally, working to alleviate the underlying grievances that drive human beings to kill innocent people for political ends. He explained that al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the verge of being decimated, and that the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress after 9/11 and directed at al-Qaeda, should accordingly be refined and ultimately repealed. He specifically rejected expanding the president’s power to use military force against unspecified new terrorist groups. And he acknowledged that preventing all terrorist attacks is simply not possible, and that we must learn to live with risk—a truth that all security experts profoundly understand, but that most politicians are deathly afraid of conceding in public, for fear that they will be seen as weak.

The president concluded that “History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future—10 years from now or 20 years from now—when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”  A very up beat review of the Presidents speech can be found in the New York Review of Books Blog at:

A more "balanced" view was written last week by Maureen Dowd, a New Your Times Editorial writer.  In her piece entitled Can 44 Subtract 43 From the Equation?   Do we dare to hope that the Bush administration is finally at an end?   After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11. Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.

Ms Dowd continued "On the eve of the president’s speech, I was at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum here, watching the film of Saddam’s statue being pulled to the ground. It’s remarkable that Obama is trying to escape the shadow of the Bush presidency just as W. is trying to escape the shadow of the Bush presidency. Browsing the library, you wonder if these two presidents are complete opposites after all, as you see how history was shaped by an arrogant, press-averse, father-fixated, history-obsessed, strangely introverted chief executive." Robert Draper, the author of “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush,” perused the library with me and observed: “So 43 grew up entitled but could display a commoner’s touch, while 44 grew up hardscrabble yet developed this imperial mien. The former is defined by incuriosity, the latter by self-absorption. One is a late-blooming artist, the other a precocious writer. They can each make you kind of miss the other.”  This New York Times editorial can be accessed at:

With declining birth rates and an ageing population, Europe is facing the threat of a democratic decline by the middle of the century. Facing similar challenges, the US has recently moved to reform its immigration policies, thus allowing greater numbers of migrants to encourage growth.Sarah Wolff argues for similar reforms for European immigration policies, which until now, have been focused on the promotion of intra-European immigration, whilst securing the EU’s external borders and organising the return of irregular migrants.  Ms Wolff, a researcher at the London School of Economics (LSE) believes that "the bold US agenda is at odds with Europe's restrictive migration policies. Europe is stuck in a narrative of 'now is the time of crisis' where short-termisn comes forst over what should be an essential migration strategy to meet Europe's growth objectives. Rather, the crisis is a handy scapegoat for restraining migration". This LSE European Politics and Policy (EUROPP) blog article can be accessed at:  Sarah Wolff