Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summing up Obama's national security policy

Glenn Greenwald tweeted a link to this article from Michael Hirsh that discusses Obama's use of the CIA. This paragraph jumped out to me and I think one phrase in it sums up the way Obama has handled foreign policy and national security issues:

One senior official inside the CIA is forthright about the issue, at least when speaking anonymously. "It's a lot simpler and easier for a sniper to shoot or to use a Predator to launch a lawful attack than to detain and interrogate prisoners," he says. "Once they're dead, then Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International doesn't bring a habeas [corpus] case for them. If we're not going to hold them, we're 'pure.' We may not have information or intelligence, but we do ensure that no one in the human-rights community is yelling and screaming at us." In addition, the official says, not dealing with detainees has freed up the agency's resources to focus on the hunt for more terrorists.

It's a lot simpler to say we should look forward instead of launching a real investigation to try and gather all the facts and prosecute those responsible for torture and other unlawful acts. It's a lot simpler to bow to Congress's demands for military tribunals instead of trials in US courts. It's a lot simpler to keep Gitmo open and not release innocent prisoners.

Doing the right thing in politics is often not the more simple option. Often times you are putting your job and possibly career on the line, even those careers of people you know. Put the courage it takes to make the less simple and right decisions is what Obama sold us on. That's what I expected of him when he got my vote. That doesn't appear to be what we got.

I also found this interesting, whether killing terror suspects is not just legal, but an effective policy:

In the case of Nabhan, the Qaida leader in Somalia, U.S. special-operations forces apparently had the option to take him prisoner but were told to shoot, sacrificing not just a life but also a source of potentially valuable intelligence.

In the torture debates you often get the ticking time bomb scenarios or just the fact that we must get info at any costs because the consequences are too horrible. These people we are killing might have important info that we could use. What if they know the whereabouts of their terrorist friends? What if they know about some plot we don't know about yet? Surely if we think info like this is important enough to break the law and torture people we should also be not killing them in order to at least try and interrogate them.

Of course that's only after you decide whether it's legal. And that goes back to the idea of universal right's that I've discussed recently. I won't get into that in detail here. I'll just say that unless you think being a US citizen makes you a better human being than everyone else in the world, I'm not sure there is a strong case for it being legal. Anyway, the whole article is good. Check it out.

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