Obama Has Won the War on Terror Debate — for the American Right
The Obama Administration has maintained, renewed or expanded many of Bush’s War on Terror policies. Now that Obama agrees with Bush on these issues, they are being forgotten by the left. The liberals screamed about these issues from 2002 through 2008, but now there is complete silence and the old slogans have been abandoned.
President Obama’s national security decisions have demonstrated the radical left was wrong, and George W. Bush always had a valid response to America’s global challenges. In just two years Obama has ignored practically all the national security planks in the 2008 Democratic platform.
If there is a difference between Obama and Bush in this area, it is difficult to find. Obama has continued some of Bush’s domestic policy such as the tax cut extension and presidential signing statements, but the major similarities concern a phrase the President refuses to say, “the war on terror.”
“There’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president. I don’t think it’s even fair to call it Bush Lite. It’s Bush. It’s really, really hard to find a difference that’s meaningful and not atmospheric. . . You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram in Afghanistan, and although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.” – Gen. Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA and the NSA, Bush Administration
Obama’s Afghan surge had overwhelming support from conservative lawmakers, and they are also backing the President’s decision to implement a no fly zone in Libya. Among some of the other notable changes few foresaw in 2008 are:
- Democrats had super majorities in the House and Senate in 2009, and they could have easily fulfilled their promise to repeal the “unconstitutional” Patriot Act. They not only renewed it, but they enhanced it.
- Liberals said Bush made end-runs around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to implement a “lawless” Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Now the Obama Justice Department says the TSP can be used under the constitutional authority of the commander in chief.
- Obama has fully implemented Bush’s Iraq Status of Forces Agreement.
- Liberals claimed the Bush administration was illegally spying on American citizens with the NSA’s “warrantless surveillance” program. The confirmation of former Bush NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden was opposed by then Sen. Obama because “he had overseen the illegal NSA spying program.” Now Obama no longer believes the program is illegal.
- Keeping Open the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, although he promised to close it on his first full day in office.
- Treatment of detainees and torture. Both rendition and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) are still legal and available for use. The EIT authorization was withdrawn by Bush and Obama formally ended the program, but he can bring it back at any time.
- Attorney General Eric Holder now says waterboarding is not torture. He pointed out that thousands of American soldiers, during training, received similar water-boarding and other interrogation methods over the past 15 years.
- Committing U.S. forces to combat without Congressional approval (the left called it cowboy diplomacy).
- Predator drone attacks on terrorists targets have continued.
Where Are the Liberals Now?
The left never really cared about national security policy, and for them it was always partisan politics. Liberal author Glenn Greenwald makes a similar argument in Salon:
Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies. At least during the Bush years, we had one party which steadfastly supported them but one party which claimed (albeit not very persuasively) to vehemently oppose them. At least there was a pretense of vigorous debate over their legality, morality, efficacy, and compatibility with our national values.
Those debates are no more. Even the hardest-core right-wing polemicists — Gen. Hayden, the Heritage Foundation, Dick Cheney — now praise Obama’s actions in these areas. Opposition from national Democrats has faded away to almost complete nonexistence now that it’s a Democratic President doing these things.
What was once viewed as the signature of Bush/Cheney radicalism is now official, bipartisan Washington consensus: the policies equally of both parties and all serious people. Thanks to Barack Obama, this architecture is firmly embedded in place and invulnerable to meaningful political challenge. . . I genuinely believe that Obama and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies that they are now themselves aggressively continuing.
Obama has won the War on Terror debate — for the American Right. And as Dick Cheney’s interview last night demonstrates, they’re every bit as appreciative as they should be.