Perhaps the most painful part of the wildly ill-conceived response to 9/11 was the way in which the US behaved like a blundering giant, lashing out at the world, smashing things like Iraq that had nothing to do with the attacks. The Bush administration’s policies – arrest, torture, secret prisons, drone attacks, two failed wars – were seductive and disastrous and arose from a worldview formed by the Cold War that saw the world in stark, dualistic ways.
The Obama administration had been stymied by Congress in its efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They’ve managed to unwind our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this week the President delivered the kind of speech that reminded me why I liked him in the first place – morally, ethically he seems to understand the issues, to speak them eloquently. Too rarely, he’s matched his rhetoric and his action. But at long last, it seems he wants to move our nation in the right direction, giving up the seductiveness of the imperial presidency and its vast powers.
In an article for the AP, from KSL, for example:
Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.
Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat – a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.
The point is that the tools needed to successfully combat terrorists aren’t armies and drones.
Maureen Dowd, channeling her inner smart person, wrote about the President’s speech.
After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11.
Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.
The rest of her article describes her visit to Bush’s presidential library, with more than few choice phrases:
You could fill an entire other library with what’s not in W.’s.
Decision Points Theater — a whiny “Well, you try being the Decider” enterprise — lets you make the decisions after getting taped briefings on W.’s crises from actors playing experts. But it is rigged with so many false binary options that the visitors I voted with ended up agreeing with Bush’s patently wrong calls on Iraq and Katrina.
I’m reminded that throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been a maddeningly cautious and centrist leader. The result has been a slow, but steady, progression in the right direction. No whiplash policy changes for this president, instead a constantly calibrating and recalibrating movement away from the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.
The War On Terror was always a misnamed, mishandled, misconceived thing, a disaster from beginning to end. It was a fatally misconceived adventure that did more damage than good. If at long last the Obama administration is turning away from it, rejecting its tactic and premises, I’ll suffice to say better late than never.