Regarding the May 30 editorial “Counterterror contradiction”:
The missing discussion continues to be: Why are we at war anyway? The United States, stepping in for the European powers after colonialism, started what the Pentagon has called the “long war” for control of the Middle East and North Africa. From Sept. 11, 2001, to the Boston Marathon bombings, we are under attack because we insist on choosing the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the rest of the Islamic world, and hence are the violent militants’ “far enemy.”
Lord Palmerston, the British foreign secretary, said before approving the invasion that ousted one Afghan ruler for a more compliant one in 1839, “We do not want to make Afghanistan a British province, but we must have it an ally on whom we can depend.” That is the mantle we have adopted throughout the Islamic world. If we drop that exceptionalist mission, we’ll stop being a target.
Caleb Rossiter, Washington
The writer is director of the American Exceptionalism Media Project.
Contrary to common misperceptions, repeal of the post-Sept. 11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) does not mean law enforcement or nothing. Targeted military strikes would still be permissible when necessary as a matter of self-defense. This, however, is very different from what is permitted against groups with which the nation is at war. When at war, any member of the group is a lawful target, even in situations when capture is possible.
To be sure, President Obama has limited who can be targeted during wartime — but this is a policy gloss that could be lifted at any time. Meanwhile, numerous experts warn of blowback caused by excessive use of lethal force. If a new group emerges that poses a sustained threat that cannot be addressed otherwise, Congress could always authorize an armed conflict against that group. In the meantime, force should be a matter of last, not first, resort. The expanded AUMF endorsed in The Post’s editorial reverses this presumption — effectively creating a state of perpetual war.
Jennifer Daskal, Washington
The writer was counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security from 2009 to 2011.