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Mathis: We've accomplished our mission in the war on terror

President Barack Obama reacts to a woman yelling

President Barack Obama reacts to a woman yelling at him from the back of the auditorium as he talks about national security at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. (May 23, 2013) Credit: AP

If the war isn’t over, it should be soon. Why? There are several reasons.

The narrowly legalistic reason is that we’ve pretty much won the war that Congress declared in the aftermath of 9/11. The ”Authorization for the Use of Military Force” authorized the president to make war ”against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept., 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Well, the Taliban is in no position to make Afghanistan a haven for terrorists. And al-Qaida has been decimated, with Osama bin Laden and most of the organization’s leadership killed or imprisoned for years now. That’s not to say terrorist attacks on America cannot happen — the bombs at the Boston Marathon are fresh in memory — but recent attacks and attempts have been conducted by self-radicalized loners. Legally, we’ve done what we set out to do.

The broader reason is that a war spanning decades and generations threatens our habits of liberty. Wartime always infringes on the freedom of Americans, always allows the government to exceed its proper limits. This war has been no different, as anybody familiar with terms like ”warrantless wiretapping,” ”enhanced interrogations,” and ”indefinite detention” can attest. Even Obama asserts that he can have American citizens assassinated abroad if he decides it’s in the nation’s security interests.

Without an end to the war, those practices — and others — become ingrained. We forget how to live as people guaranteed privacy or due process. And that increases the amount of fear in our lives.

The Founders were so afraid of the national security state and its ability to trample liberties that they forbade Congress from funding the Army for more than two years at a time. It’s doubtful they’d approve the way we’ve agreed to trade our liberties for an apparently endless war.

Joel Mathis is a contributing editor to The Philly Post.