Author:Whitaker, Reg
Position:OPINION - Global War on Terror/Overseas Contingency Operation

The contrast could not be greater.

Shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush declared, in apocalyptic tones, a "Global War on Terror" (GWOT). The GWOT, successor to the Cold War as the grand strategic doctrine of global conflict, prevailed for eight years. Then, shortly after Barack Obama took office in 2009, his White House sent out a directive specifying that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term [GWOT]. Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'"

That this signals much more than a mere change in bureaucratic nomenclature was starkly evident only two days into the new administration when the President swept away key Components of Bush's GWOT: the infamous prison camp at Guantanamo was to be closed, and the CIA network of secret prisons abroad was to be terminated. Moreover, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations (justifying torture and other human rights abuses and the limitless expansion of executive powers) issued by lawyers in the Bush Administration after 9/11.

Obama had campaigned on a message of "hope." While this might be dismissed as political rhetoric, the marker of hope was in fact a philosophical challenge to the foundation of Bush's global crusade. For everything advanced in the name of fighting terrorism under Bush had been premised on fear. "Terrorists" (Muslim/Arab) replaced "Communists" (Russian/Chinese) as the fearful Other that threatened the Free World both externally and internally. Evil was at the door and under the bed, and its armies were immensely resourceful and cunning. The very essence of freedom, democracy and Our Way of Life was in imminent peril.

So dire was the threat that the most extreme countermeasures were required. As the real architect of the GWOT, Vice President Dick Cheney, argued, America would have to "go over to the Dark Side" to beat the terrorists. Moreover, as with the Cold War, there could be no neutrality. As Bush memorably declared, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." As America's increasingly disconcerted allies learned, "with us" meant "under us." Just as the Cold War had been sponsored by a military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, the GWOT was backed by a security-industrial complex of companies selling technological fixes for security threats that they themselves were warning against, or gaining contracts for private security services for the...

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