Today, the New York Times acknowledges that Barack Obama is more-or-less copying George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism policies. Citing the continuation of prisoner transfer overseas, the retention of state-secret privileges, and cooperation with allies in protecting sensitive information, Charlie Savage writes, “These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared – prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.”
Not so much vindication as relief. George W. Bush constructed an anti-terrorism architecture that kept the U.S. improbably safe for over seven years. If Obama dismantled this program and exposed us to future attacks in order to please a few conspiracy-minded bloggers and filmmakers, my first thought wouldn’t be about vindication for Bush.
Now, the danger lies in what anti-Bush scraps Obama may feel compelled to throw to the disillusioned base. According to the Times, “[White House Counsel, Greg] Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any ‘shoot from the hip’ and ‘bumper sticker slogans’ approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.” But that’s not strictly true.
However the Obama administration will soon learn, with their Guantanamo stunt, that bumper sticker gestures are bigger headaches than they’re worth – specifically because, as policies, they don’t correspond to real world challenges. Keeping Guantanamo up and running wouldn’t have created half the problems that trying to shut it down now poses. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the unserious campaigner on matters of national security. Mark Steyn once suggested that the slogan, “No More Bumper Stickers” would make for a good bumper sticker. He’s right, but it makes an even better foreign policy.