Rhetoric and Reality: Obama’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy

CNAS has just released another of the major projects I’ve been working on this spring:  Rhetoric and Reality, an analysis of the Obama administration’s strategy for combating terrorism and countering violent extremism.   I’ll have more to say about this soon, but for now, allow me to quote from the press release: President Barack Obama shifted ...

CNAS has just released another of the major projects I've been working on this spring:  Rhetoric and Reality, an analysis of the Obama administration's strategy for combating terrorism and countering violent extremism.   I'll have more to say about this soon, but for now, allow me to quote from the press release:

President Barack Obama shifted away from the rhetorical framework of former President George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” because he believed this would allow America to more effectively combat the challenge posed by violent extremists such as al-Qaeda.  Despite this change in rhetoric, and dramatic changes from the early years after 9/11, the Obama administration's approach demonstrates striking continuity with the policies and philosophies adopted by the Bush administration in its final two years. This report - authored by Marc Lynch - examines the Administration's efforts to change America's rhetoric and adapt to new threats.  Lynch calls on the Obama administration to more clearly articulate its counterterrorism strategy, adapt to new domestic threats, coordinate efforts to engage publics and counter extremist narratives and prepare for a successful attack well in advance.  He also warns of the inherent tensions that arise from the administration’s rhetorical commitment to the rule of law as essential to a durable, legitimate campaign against violent extremists even as it escalates its covert drone operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and counterterrorism partnerships in ungoverned territories.

Download the report from CNAS here

CNAS has just released another of the major projects I’ve been working on this spring:  Rhetoric and Reality, an analysis of the Obama administration’s strategy for combating terrorism and countering violent extremism.   I’ll have more to say about this soon, but for now, allow me to quote from the press release:

President Barack Obama shifted away from the rhetorical framework of former President George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” because he believed this would allow America to more effectively combat the challenge posed by violent extremists such as al-Qaeda.  Despite this change in rhetoric, and dramatic changes from the early years after 9/11, the Obama administration’s approach demonstrates striking continuity with the policies and philosophies adopted by the Bush administration in its final two years. This report – authored by Marc Lynch – examines the Administration’s efforts to change America’s rhetoric and adapt to new threats.  Lynch calls on the Obama administration to more clearly articulate its counterterrorism strategy, adapt to new domestic threats, coordinate efforts to engage publics and counter extremist narratives and prepare for a successful attack well in advance.  He also warns of the inherent tensions that arise from the administration’s rhetorical commitment to the rule of law as essential to a durable, legitimate campaign against violent extremists even as it escalates its covert drone operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and counterterrorism partnerships in ungoverned territories.

Download the report from CNAS here

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).

He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.