In case you didn't get the gist of President Obama's Thursday speech at National Defense University, the AP's Robert Burns boiled it down on Saturday, perhaps supportively: "OBAMA REFOCUSES TERROR THREAT TO PRE-9/11 LEVEL."
That leaves one annoying detail Burns and Obama ignore: The "pre-9/11 threat level" wasn't that much different from the threat level during the first few years after 9/11. But our response in going to a war footing and more conscientious coordination at home was. As a result, there were no more successful terrorist attacks until the Ft. Hood massacre (mislabeled "workplace violence by our hapless government) in November 2009. The World Trade Centers were bombed in 1993. After that, there were at least the following: Khobar Towers in 1996, the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and other incidents in the U.S. which may have been inspired by Islamist terrorists despite official conclusions to the contrary. The "pre-9/11 threat level" was actually higher, especially if one remembers, well, 9/11. But that's certainly not the message Obama, with Burns's help, is trying to convey. Instead, it's that the President "has all but declared" that global war on terror is over (bolds are mine):
Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.
Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat — a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.
His speech Thursday was designed to move America's mindset away from a war footing and refine and recalibrate his own counterterrorism strategy. Obama asserted that al-Qaida is "on the path to defeat," reducing the scale of terrorism to pre-Sept. 11 levels. That means that with the Afghanistan war winding down, Obama is unlikely to commit troops in large numbers to any conflict — in Syria or other countries struggling with instability in the uncertain aftermath of the Arab Spring — unless, as his critics fear, he tragically has underestimated al-Qaida's staying power.
... From the beginning of his presidency, Obama's centerpiece of his national security strategy has been a desire to move beyond the wars he inherited in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the shadowy spaces occupied by al-Qaida and its offshoots now creeping up in North Africa and elsewhere.
As noted earlier, "the scale of terrorism" in the eight years before 9/11 was quite high, and that history won't ever go away. And it can be hardly comforting to American diplomats, military, and expatriates stationed overseas or even American tourists that the "new approach to national security" Burns describes Obama as taking involves naively treating terrorists, in the words of an "expert" the AP writer quoted, as "crooks" and not "warriors."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.