Continuity You Can Believe In

April 7th, 2010 at 8:03 am David Frum | 4 Comments |

| Print

Eli Lake has a super-interesting article at Reason.com on the continuities between the war power policies of President Obama and President George W. Bush.

The U.S. still reserves the right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charge, try them via military tribunal, keep them imprisoned even if they are acquitted, and kill them in foreign countries with which America is not formally at war (including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan). When Obama closed the secret CIA prisons known as “black sites,” he specifically allowed for temporary detention facilities where a suspect could be taken before being sent to a foreign or domestic prison, a practice known as “rendition.” And even where the Obama White House has made a show of how it has broken with the Bush administration, such as outlawing enhanced interrogation techniques, it has done so through executive order, which can be reversed at any time by the sitting president.

More:

While it’s true that President Obama appears more reluctant to use these extraordinary powers than his predecessor, he is nonetheless asserting, enthusiastically at times, that he has such powers. And because so much of the American war on terror is conducted in secret, it is difficult to know what Obama is and is not doing to wage it.

Obama has done a lot to disapprove of in counter-terrorism, including exposing individual CIA agents to publicity and legal jeopardy. Our Elise Cooper has reported well on this abuse, see for example here and here. But some conservative criticism of the president has, ironically, given him undeserved political cover, by enabling him to pretend that he has radically changed Bush administration policies. The true point is that in office, Obama has discovered that those policies were necessary and reasonable.

You’re welcome.

Apology accepted.

Recent Posts by David Frum



4 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    “Obama has done a lot to disapprove of in counter-terrorism, including exposing individual CIA agents to publicity and legal jeopardy.”

    When has he done this. If you mean the showing of photos to AQ bu US Army attorneys, then not so much.

    When compared to the Valerie Plame scandal, when an active CIA agent was deliberately outed in revenge against her husband. Now that was a scandal.

  • pnwguy

    David:

    There were almost two different foreign and military policy approaches in the GWB presidency. After Iraq began to derail heading into the 2006 elections, much of the tone and direction was changing, culminating in the sacking of Rumsfeld and his replacement by Gates. Certainly with Obama’s decision to retain Gate’s, much continuation is to be expected.

    But Lake’s piece is still highlighting the “2 policies” aspects and noting that the overreach parts happened in the first one, while the second was more reasonable. And he’s noting that while Obama has been slow in providing a legal framework to prevent the Part 1 abuses from happening again, he’s been continuing the more sensible second part direction in regards to defense and anti-terrorism.

    The trouble I see is that people, yourself included, that were cheerleaders for the first part are blurring the distinctions and claiming that Obama’s embrace of the reformed approach validates the reckless aspects of the earlier days of Bush’s foreign policy. That’s disingenuous.

    I’m guessing that Obama would like to subject his and future presidencies to a different legal framework, but he’s picking his political battles. He’s got other policy initiatives of higher importance (ex: HCR, Immigration, etc.) to invest the political capital on.

  • James Cody

    “You’re welcome.

    Apology accepted.”

    Have you apologized for Iraq yet? You know, that war that did nothing to further America’s national security or winning the war on terror? That war that very likely prevented us from finishing off al Qaeda and actually ending the endless war five years ago? That war that resulted in the deaths of 4000+ Americans?

    Have you apologized for the “axis of evil” line yet, which more than anything symbolizes everything that Bush did wrong in his approach to the war on terror by completely conflating all enemies and without making serious, evidence-based, non-ideological distinctions on what tactics to use against what enemies?

    Beware obnoxious jerks who throw childish, intellectually-dishonest stones in glass houses.

  • The Strange Foreign Policy Dynamics of the Status Quo « Another War of Jenkins' Ear

    [...] David Frum hits on the key point (h/t Weigel): [S]ome conservative criticism of the president has, ironically, given him undeserved political cover, by enabling him to pretend that he has radically changed Bush administration policies. The true point is that in office, Obama has discovered that those policies were necessary and reasonable. [...]