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No, the War on Terror Isn't Ending

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
May 23, 2013
Atlantic Monthly


In his speech, President Barack Obama sought to redefine and in many ways "rightsize," the global war on terror.

"Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless 'global war on terror' - but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America," said the president. "We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war -- through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments -- will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways."

Obama argued to the crowd at National Defense University that, "our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end."

The question seems to come down to the definition of war and how broadly and widely you apply it. By the president's own reckoning, there does not seem to be an end of war up ahead, but rather a shrinking, a targeting and a restructuring of it.

The last decade has seen more than 6,500 American men and women die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By some estimates the bill for the two conflicts could reach $4 to $6 trillion when the costs of caring for those who served in battle are included. Earlier this week the Pentagon requested another $80 billion for combat operations in Afghanistan.

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