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What’s Obama’s Counterterrorism Strategy?

The House minority leader defends his criticism.

Yesterday, House Republican Leader John Boehner criticized the Obama administration’s lack of an overarching strategy to fight terrorism and keep America safe, saying, “Luck is not an effective strategy for fighting terrorism.”

John Dickerson’s piece last night presents a thoroughly muddled argument against Boehner’s criticism. To be clear, Boehner, like many Republicans (including Sen. Jim DeMint, whom Dickerson cites), has supported President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the president has simply failed to put together a coherent overall strategy for keeping America safe. Fighting our enemies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, while crucial, does not constitute an overall strategy.

The administration’s handling of terrorism-related issues continues to raise serious questions. For example:

—What is the Obama administration’s detention policy? What are the parameters for when, how, where, and under what circumstances we detain and solicit information from cooperative and uncooperative detainees?

—Who makes those decisions? For both the Christmas Day attempted terrorist bombing and the incident in Times Square, the attorney general and Department of Justice have been in charge. What roles are the director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Secretary playing? Does the primacy of a law enforcement agency indicate that we now have a pre-9/11 law-enforcement focus?

—The president announced the closure of the terrorist prison in Cuba more than 16 months ago, yet he has no plan or overarching guidance as to how each detainee will be held in the future or released. What are the criteria for when we will release detainees to a third country? How will we choose civilian or military trials? What additional rights to which they are currently not entitled will terrorist detainees get if brought to U.S. soil? Where is the president on the 9/11 trials?

Boehner has been very clear that our concerns are with the framework through which the Obama administration establishes its overall strategy to defeat terrorism. Failing to understand the difference between supporting the administration’s strategy in Afghanistan and questioning its lack of an overall security strategy is obtuse at best. You readers deserve better.

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