A Lot More Rhetoric than Change
It's amazing how great a distance the Obama Administration has traveled from the presidential campaign, punctuated by endless criticism of the previous administration for, among many other imaginings, domestic invasions of privacy, military invasions in the Middle East ending in "quagmire," and torture of the hapless prisoners who should receive a timely trial in domestic court. Now that the President and many of the same advisers are in charge of a real war on real terrorists who really want to attack us with lethal force, there's been one epiphany after another.
As to our privacy, a four year extension of the Patriot Act has been signed by the President without any additional protections for civil liberties, raising the same old objections from some in Congress that "executive privilege" goes too far without a public airing of the administration's interpretation of the law.
Due to the former Commander in Chief's insistence on the Iraq surge -- while the current President and Vice President were openly critical of it -- the "quagmire" evolved so well that this administration ended up reversing itself and claiming credit. The Afghan surge, on the other hand, is struggling against arbitrary deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawal that may only serve to encourage the Taliban to wait us out. And we are now militarily involved in three Middle East conflicts (depending on who's counting); if any quagmires exist they're in conflicts initiated or escalated by this President.
Finally, investigation of detainee mistreatment by the CIA will no longer be spotlighted for political advantage or legal compliance. In 2009 Justice appointed a prosecutor to investigate possible mistreatment of some 100 detainees over the objections of seven former CIA directors and the then current director, Leon Panetta. The Justice Department has announced it is ceasing investigation of all but two of the cases, which involve detainee death while in CIA custody. And trials will be conducted by unfairly vilified military tribunals at Gitmo, completing this trio of policy reversals by also leaving Gitmo open for business as usual.
Moralizing from a distance has certainly become a lot closer to current practice when it's time to make real change -- or not.