June 05, 2010

Rhetoric and Reality: Countering Terrorism in the Age of Obama

President Barack Obama shifted away from the rhetorical framework of former President George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” because he believed this would allow America to more effectively combat the challenge posed by violent extremists such as al-Qaeda. Despite this change in rhetoric, and dramatic changes from the early years after 9/11, the Obama administration's approach demonstrates striking continuity with the policies and philosophies adopted by the Bush administration in its final two years. This report - authored by Marc Lynch - examines the Administration's efforts to change America's rhetoric and adapt to new threats. Lynch calls on the Obama administration to more clearly articulate its counterterrorism strategy, adapt to new domestic threats, coordinate efforts to engage publics and counter extremist narratives and prepare for a successful attack well in advance. He also warns of the inherent tensions that arise from the administration’s rhetorical commitment to the rule of law as essential to a durable, legitimate campaign against violent extremists even as it escalates its covert drone operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and counterterrorism partnerships in ungoverned territories.


  • Marc Lynch