Obama the hawk

The New York Times has another story of President Obama's forcefulness in the face of national security challenges — the second this week. Today's issue contains a report about Obama ordering cyberattacks on Iran, and the 6,000-word opus the Times ran on Tuesday about Obama's drone campaign is still on the lips of everyone in Washington. A must-read indeed.

Think what you will about the burgeoning use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, the cost, efficacy and sustainability of such a warfare program, the story includes fascinating political revelations as well. To start with, Obama's declaration on day two in office that he would close Guantanamo Bay within one year was not only a goal that would turn out to be impossible, but Obama didn't even expect closing Gitmo to be hard. So ignorant to the political realities of his promise was Obama that he ignored the advice of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder that they might get started lobbying Congress on the issue. They were told no, that healthcare reform was the higher priority.

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Yet even as he signed executive orders to close Gitmo, he had made sure he had legal wiggle room to maintain renditions, and never mentioned so. In the drone campaign, in which he signs off on almost every killing, Obama has opted for a limited definition for casualties which permits him to define any male victim of military-service age as a combatant, which results in fewer official casualty numbers.

The article notes that Obama was pleased when a letter from the bin Laden compound was unearthed that included comments about the connection between Obama's repeated statements about the United States not being at war with Islam and a weakening in support for al Qaeda. What Obama has tried to achieve, after criticizing President George W. Bush for stoking anti-American sentiment around the world, is the preservation of many of his national security policies without the cost to America's reputation abroad, and particularly in the Muslim world.

"After the global outrage over Guantanamo, it's remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians," John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer in the Bush administration, told the Times.

The story of the drone campaign tells a lot about Obama — and shows just how hard he works to have it both ways.


THE JOBS REPORT STANK; IS OBAMA DONE FOR?
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