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May 27, 2013 10:49 AM If War Is Hell, What Is Perpetual War?

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been staring at Sen. Lindsey’s Graham’s comments yesterday from Fox News Sunday, when he criticized the president’s big counter-terrorism speech, and wondering what it would take to satisfy him that it’s time to declare the Global War On Terrorism over?

At a time we need resolved the most, we are sounding retreat. Our enemies are emboldened all over the planet. Al Qaeda in Iraq is coming back with vengeance, in Libya together. Our friends are uncertain. Syria is falling apart. We are talking about helping the rebels but doing nothing about it. Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon….
At the end of the day, this is the most tone deaf president I’ve ever — could imagine and making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be — attacked literally every day.

So are the only alternatives for the United States a world free of threats or perpetual war? That would seem to be Graham’s essential argument. And what a forfeiture of national sovereignty he calls for, if we are prohibited from adjusting our national security strategy and returning to a normal constitutional regime so long as one “emboldened” enemy or “uncertain” friend might notice!

The habit, carried over from the Cold War, of waging undeclared wars fought under hazy international and domestic auspices is dangerous enough. The idea that anything other than a permanent war footing invites disaster is an extension of the Cold War “Peace Through Strength” doctrine that in fact rules out peace.

If, as Sherman rightly said, “War is hell!”—then what kind of existence do advocates of perpetual war propose for us? It’s a question that Lindsey Graham should be asked to ponder every time he objects to even the smallest steps away from fear and hysteria.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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