In a much-anticipated speech at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama sought to turn the page on the era that began on Sept. 11, 2001, when the imperative of preventing terrorist attacks became both the priority and the preoccupation. Instead, the president suggested that the United States had returned to the state of affairs that existed before Al Qaeda toppled the World Trade Center, when terrorism was a persistent but not existential danger. With Al Qaeda’s core now “on the path to defeat,” he argued, the nation must adapt.
“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” Mr. Obama said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.”
The politics of this perpetual war may be the hardest part. We have become so used to the drumbeat of invade and occupy from the neocons and the armchair generals who never wore the uniform or picked up anything more than a cigar that moving in any other direction sounds like retreat to them. But for the sake of our country, our treasure, and the lives of the people who are the ones who will have to fight, the war that we were whooped into and then lied to in order to perpetuate it must end, and the speech Mr. Obama gave yesterday was the first indication that it will.