08 May Harold Koh’s Speech at the Oxford Union
Former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh spoke yesterday at the Oxford Union. His speech, “How to End the Forever War?” (link to .pdf) is a reflection on the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, in particular in regards to the rule of law. It is also a talk set to contrast the Obama Administration’s approach to international law and foreign policy from the Bush Administration’s. He opens in this way:
Now that I have returned to the academy, I tend to hear three common misperceptions from friends on both the left and the right: first, that what some call the Global War on Terror has become a perpetual state of affairs; second, that “the Obama approach to that conflict has become just like the Bush approach;” and third, that we have no available strategy to bring this conflict to an end in the near future. Tonight, let me reject all three propositions.
Let me ask what the real question is that faces us, suggest the right approach to addressing it, and outline three elements of an answer. In a nutshell, our question should be: “How to End the Forever War?” Our Approach should be what I would call: “Translate, not Black Hole.” And our three-part answer should be: “(1) Disengage from Afghanistan, (2) Close Guantanamo, and (3) Discipline Drones.”
This speech is a sort of book-end with former Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson’s recent speech (also at the Oxford Union) that mentioned there will come a time when we transition from looking at this as an armed conflict against an organized enemy to a counter-terrorism effort against individuals. Koh’s speech extends this theme, giving his perspectives on how to get to that tipping point. Well worth the read.