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Contentions

Another Take on Europe and the Detainees

Abe has taken a crack at explaining the meaning of the U.S.’s negotiations with Europe over the Guantanamo detainees. My take is slightly different. Last week, Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as arguing that:

When we are asking allies to do their fair share in dealing with this challenge we need to do our fair share.

I am of two minds about this argument, but I lean toward considering it nonsense. Though part of me just blames the administration for being naïve, for actually believing that Gitmo has ever been a serious issue for Europe, as opposed to something it could beat George W. Bush over the head with.

That part of me is willing to give the administration some credit for trying, albeit gullibly, to encourage the Europeans to live up to their responsibilities. It blames the administration only for committing the fundamental liberal error of believing that the misbehavior of others is merely a reflection of our own supposed faults.

The other part of me thinks this is far too generous. Abe quotes the update on the negotiations, and argues that the administration is doing the bidding of the Europeans. As our partners in Europe put it:

We reaffirm that the primary responsibility for closing Guantanamo and finding residence for the former detainees rests with the United States.

But the way I read both that sentence and Flournoy’s comments, both sides are actually advancing the same position: the detainees are going to be housed in the U.S. What the administration wants is a vague agreement with Europe to provide them with the necessary domestic cover. The Europeans will naturally extract a price for this agreement, since they hold all the cards: they do not, after all, have to take a single detainee, while the administration is desperate to close Guantanamo.

My prediction: when all is said and done, the overwhelming majority of the detainees will be housed in the U.S., and the Europeans non-cooperation will yet again be excused.



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