Not There Yet

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.