Paul Greenberg

Just what is the country supposed to make of our president's rambling stream-of-consciousness billed as a Major Policy Address at the National Defense University last week?

To try to summarize:

The war on terror, a term this president avoids, is now winding down even if it keeps showing up -- on the sidewalks of Boston and London, at an American outpost in Benghazi, outside an Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ... you name it. But it's definitely winding down now because our president says it is, so we can all relax, kind of.

At such moments it occurs how simple it would have been to end the Cold War (which had its hot moments) if only some president had declared it over long before its source imploded with the collapse of the Evil Empire.

Unfortunately, reality kept intervening. For decades. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the big problem with declaring a unilateral peace is that it may be observed only unilaterally.

Nevertheless, this president is going to further limit the grounds for those drone attacks abroad -- they've been so effective the military and CIA are running out of targets anyway -- in order to limit what's come to be called "collateral damage," which is still the euphemism du jour for the horrors inflicted on innocent civilians in any war.

The president made it clear that he is shocked, shocked! to discover that war, even one he declares a just war, is unjust to the innocents caught up in it. So he's going to restrict these drone attacks to only those that can be conducted with near certainty, virtual certainty, or almost certainty that no innocents will be offed, too. Neat. A lot neater than reality.

What are the requirements for ordering a drone attack now -- being only kind of certain nothing will go wrong? Unfortunately, kind-of-certain or even almost-certain is not certain, any more than being virtually certain is a sound basis for decisions in war or even, as any cub reporter soon discovers, in journalism.

The president is also going to call off his war on Fox News, the AP and any other journalistic enterprise that doesn't toe his line. Why, he had no idea what his Justice Department was up to when it went after reporters for doing their jobs. Any more than he did about the whole spate of scandals still bubbling on his stovetop as various congressional committees lift the covers on all those pots to reveal the boiling messes underneath -- from the IRS scandal to the succession of fact-free cover stories out of the White House about what happened at Benghazi. All of those outrages came as a shock, a shock! to President Innocent Bystander, too.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.