04 February, 2009

You know you're doing something right...


When Dick Cheney thinks your policies are doing harm to American national security interests. In the interview with Politico, he is clearly trying to implant the narrative that if another attack occurs, it will be because of Obama's lack of resolve in the matter of torturing detainees. Fortunately, his arguments are about as laughable as Joe the Plumber holding forth on the economic crisis. Shall we review?

First, the tired straw men that

we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.

and

I think there are some who probably actually believe that if we just go talk nice to these folks, everything’s going to be okay.

Anyone who says this manner of thing should be automatically disqualified from occupying a serious place in foreign policy debates. Diplomacy and negotiation are about using the tremendous amount of leverage we and our allies have to apply incentives and disincentives, and never about appeals to conscience or Christian agape. And everyone in the world understands, without us shouting about it, that the words of the US are backed up by overwhelming force. (Unless, of course, we are being tied down by a useless occupation...) Cheney must have missed Obama's talk of doubling force levels in Afghanistan and using all means at our disposal to crush al-Qaeda. That's ok; it was only the central plank of his foreign policy platform.

Second, his calling the new Administration naive:

The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.

Lets just stop to note the irony of this man, who thought that a unilateral US occupation of a hostile Middle Eastern country riven by ethnic disputes would quickly result in a bastion of liberal, pro-American democracy, throwing out the charge of naivete. Also, are we supposed to believe that Bush-Cheney policies generated respect in the world? But more to the point, Obama's insistence on retaining the right to cross border strikes in Pakistan (and now his statement that he will retain the use of certain types of rendition), among other things, demonstrate that his policies will not be held hostage to some sort of world opinion poll.

Finally, with regards to Obama's plans to close Guantanamo (which even Bush came to realize was necessary):

But he said he worried that “instead of sitting down and carefully evaluating the policies,” Obama officials are unwisely following “campaign rhetoric” and preparing to release terrorism suspects or afford them legal protections granted to more conventional defendants in crime cases.

OK. I'm pretty sure what Obama's team is actually doing as we speak is sitting down and carefully evaluating the policies, causing a delay which I've seen some on the left interpret as hesitation. But what gets me is how Cheney can be so worked up about these terrorism suspects when his administration failed to maintain any organized collection of evidence, and much less any comprehensive case files, on most of the current detainees. So lets summarize: Bush and Cheney scooped up hundreds of suspects willy nilly (many of them, it was found, framed for ransom money), stocked the Justice department with sympathetic lawyers who wrote sham opinions justifying their unconstitutional treatment, and then failed to organize or upkeep even the most basic dossier on their backgrounds and evidence against them so that when a new administration took over and began to "sit down and carefully evaluate" the policies, they are left more or less in the dark about the details of the individuals.

I needed to vent about this interview, but I think the healthiest thing going forward is simply to ignore the man, who, as Ackerman points out, will need to continue to push this line out in order to salvage what's left of his reputation. Obama is certainly not perfect, and I may not agree with how he eventually resolves the legitimate challenges of holding terrorism suspects, but for once Andrew Sullivan is not exaggerating when he says that right now, especially after reading that interview, the overwhelming feeling is relief.

1 comment:

Cassady said...

I'm glad you brought this up, and with such a good analysis (read: ass-kicking).

What bugs me most about the media coverage and commentary about these first weeks of the Obama presidency is how many people seem to be jumping ship simply because they don't understand what it actually takes to implement a policy--or what 'change' actually means.

Approval ratings are dropping because Gitmo isn't long gone, Bin Laden hasn't turned himself in and apologized to the country, and Israelis and Palestinians aren't inviting each other over for dinner--and it's ridiculous.

Cheney can talk all he wants, unfortunately some will listen, but I think the majority realize that he's a nasty, defense little man who's upset that he was proved wrong.

How can anybody legitimately claim that the Obama team is "backpedaling" to buy time? They were literally denied access to the relevant material until a couple weeks ago. WTF?

I especially agree with your assessment of the future of diplomacy. I think Obama has shown the strength of his personality and resolve, and while diplomacy will be less coercive and self-righteous, it will be no less effective, and probably moreso.

Stay the course, that's what I whisper to myself every time I hear people from the previous regime whining about Obama. Just rise above.