An excellent presentation, beginning with an excellent, opening volley against the neoconservative wet dream of perpetual war, since even the limited ones have historically "compromised our basic values."
Obama is trying to get out of a foreign-policy box built for him by the George W. Bush administration's ideological propagandists and perpetuated by Republicans' military muscularism. Wars, though strike-up-the-band glorious for some of the political class, simply cannot last forever. And this one--the so-called war on terror--is long overdue for retirement. That Obama chose to announce said retirement four months after his second inauguration shows the lingering political power of neocon ideology and the president's better-protected eagerness to forcefully confront it.
One phrase deployed by Obama really struck home. In America's continuing battle against terrorists, there is "no moral safe harbor." Not, anyway, for a president, this one or the next. Virtually every counterterrorism path that a president pursues is a trade-off--a little security here for a piece of your liberty there; 10 innocents killed in exchange for a thousand later saved--and it's just so damn refreshing to hear a president admit it rather than suppress it through a fog of uberheroic, hyperpatriotic neocon bullshit. Wars do compromise our values; we eventually become what we hate; and President Obama appeared to be running the clock back. He knows where this is headed, and it ain't good.
In the service of that knowledge he announced more "targeted" counterterrorism efforts and "heavily constrained" drone strikes overseas, while here at home he has asked his attorney general to "review" the Justice department's reckless expansion of its investigative practices into security leaks. That the latter issue has become a weirdly balanced and therefore exceptionally dangerous one, Obama seemed to appreciate. The leakers--not the press--are the problem here; so work the problem, not the irritant. That, anyway, appears to be Obama's new instructions to Justice.
On Gitmo, well, what can one say about Gitmo, other than that it's an impossible problem exacerbated by impossible congressmen. But, finally, although he didn't use the phrase, it sure was good to hear him refer once again to the benefits of "soft power" over hard; to note, in so many words, that one freshly built school in Afghanistan is worth two brigades of firepower.
A really excellent speech.