Via the Free Beacon. I would have phrased the question differently, like, say, “When exactly did President Obama decide that the Bush doctrine is awesome?” Because he has, you know. But we needn’t quibble over semantics. Marie Harf’s non-denial:
“When we talk about how you degrade and defeat terrorist organizations, it’s not exactly I think how you’re probably using the term,” said Harf. “And it’s not one that I’m using. Our goal is to prevent terrorist organizations from being able to attack the United States or our interests, to degrade their capabilities to do so. Obviously those are the kinds of terms I would use when it comes to this current effort.”
Preventing a dangerous enemy from hitting the U.S. by hitting him first sounds pretty preemptive-y to me. If I understand her correctly, the reason this isn’t preemptive war a la Bush is because it isn’t war, period. A war is something you engage in against a nation-state; we don’t recognize ISIS’s caliphate, ergo, they’re just a bunch of terrorists and preemptive war against terrorists is simply counterterrorism. I think that’s why you’re seeing such a moronic sustained effort today among White House mouthpieces to avoid using terms like “war” and “victory,” with Harf refusing even to accept “war on terrorism” as a label at the beginning of the video below. (Obama himself never once described the new “effort” against ISIS as a “war” last night, by the way.) The parallels here to 2003 — preempting a threat to the U.S. by overthrowing a brutal regime in the heart of Iraq — are too obvious and too politically uncomfortable to adopt Bush-era terms like “war” and “preemption” too. And of course, the more you talk about it as a new “war,” the more the public’s left wondering why an Article I declaration of war by Congress is unnecessary. So this is a counterterrorism operation. Got it? A counterterrorism operation. Repeat that however many times you need to in order to drum it into your thick skulls, America.
Anyway, a banner day for the White House communications team. I’ll leave you with this, which apparently really happened:
— Ali Rogin (@AliRogin) September 11, 2014
Update: Keep repeating it, America:
Rice tells @wolfblitzer: "I don't know whether you want to call it a war, or a sustained counter-terrorism campaign." Different, she says.
— Michael Wilner (@mawilner) September 11, 2014