As David Ignatius put it, the President
was declaring that the era that began on Sept. 11, 2001, is over. Al-Qaeda’s top leader is dead, and most of its cadres are on the run; secret peace talks are under way with the Taliban. And across the Arab world, the United States is talking with Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist organizations that a few years ago might have been on terror lists. It’s a process that’s similar to the way Britain ended its long war with Irish terrorists, by engaging in negotiations with the IRA’s “political” wing.This was a war that could never be ended by a final battle, or by the signing of some comprehensive treaty around a flag-covered table. It is now petering out into a series of police actions and civil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which we are going to leave to the locals to handle themselves.
I have no idea what will happen in Iraq or Afghanistan after our troops leave, and I fear Pakistan will continue down the same sad road of corruption, secret government, and increasing strife. But I feel optimistic about how this will play out in America. As war and fear recede, maybe we will bring some sense back into our public life and curtail the stupid policies, from torture to making arthritic old ladies take off their shoes at airports, that we embraced in the climate of war.