Obama’s Gitmo Rethink

In my New Atlanticist piece, “Obama to Close Guantánamo Prison. Eventually.” I give credit to the president-elect for carrying out his pledge to close the symbolic nightmare at Gitmo but in a manner that won’t be harmful to America’s national security.

One thing that I’ve noted many times that is being demonstrated yet again by this decision is that, after running against a caricature of the Bush foreign policy, Obama’s going to inherit the actual Bush foreign policy. Most of what he’s run pledging to do is already United States policy and has been for at least two or three years.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Maggie Mama says:

    I believe you are correct. Obama will learn very quickly Dubya’s shoes pinch.

  2. Randall Flagg says:

    Denial- it ain’t just a river in Egypt.

  3. Davebo says:

    A good first step, but pure symbolism if we leave open detainment centers at Bagram and who knows how many other secret sites. Considering that detainees actually died from their “enhanced interrogation” methods there.

  4. Bithead says:

    I give credit to the president-elect for carrying out his pledge to close the symbolic nightmare at Gitmo but in a manner that won’t be harmful to America’s national security.

    You’ll forgive me if I’m not convinced on that point. One of the reality ‘pinch points’ Obama is going to end up facing one way or the other is that there were serious reasons for keeping those people there.

    Further, when you’re in a hurry, corners get cut. All it’s going to take is one of those prisoners causing one attack, or God forbid, one death caused by one of those who were at Gitmo, and the sheer volume of screaming that Obama will hear will be on a level with a mid-70’s Who concert.

  5. markm says:

    One of the reality ‘pinch points’ Obama is going to end up facing one way or the other is that there were serious reasons for keeping those people there.

    He said as much on his Sunday interview (though I think he said the evidence against them was tainted). He also said finding a place for them is hard…which you wouldn’t think it difficult to find a place for the good guys.

  6. Triumph says:

    Most of what he’s run pledging to do is already United States policy and has been for at least two or three years.

    I’m not sure what you are referring to here–closing of Gitmo? Closing Gitmo is not current US policy–hell, Cheney was on the radio today saying it is a bad idea to close the place

  7. Triumph says:

    Guantánamo is a problem as a symbol because of the Bush administration’s decision to use what they called “extraordinary measures” and others, Obama and myself included, call “torture” at the facility. Photos of abusive treatment got out and undermined our efforts around the world immeasurably.

    Photos from Gitmo? Don’t you mean Abu Grhaib? I remember one of the detainees trying to get photos for their court case from the CIA about a year ago, but I don’t remember photos actually being released or leaked.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Closing Gitmo is not current US policy

    Bush has been saying he’d like to close Gitmo since at least May 2006. The problem is that he’s got a bunch of people that can’t simply be freed and there’s no place else to put them.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Photos from Gitmo? Don’t you mean Abu Grhaib? I remember one of the detainees trying to get photos for their court case from the CIA about a year ago, but I don’t remember photos actually being released or leaked.

    My recollection is fuzzy but, certainly, the Gitmo-style “orange jump suit” has been all the rage for protestors for quite a few years now.

  10. Triumph says:

    Bush has been saying he’d like to close Gitmo since at least May 2006.

    Bush says a lot of things: he wants to put men on Mars, have a constitutional amendment to ban certain types of marriage, and end steroid use in baseball.

    A “policy” is a deliberate plan of action to achieve a particular outcome. Bush has actually rejected policies to close Gitmo authored by his own State and Defense Departments.

    With his closest foreign policy advisor saying today that keeping it open is the right thing to do, you would have to come up with something more substantive than Bush’s jawbowing to provide evidence for an actual policy.

  11. Triumph says:

    My recollection is fuzzy but, certainly, Gitmo-style “orange jump suit” has been all the rage for protestors for quite a few years now.

    Maybe its just me, but I don’t equate making prisoners wear a common uniform with “abusive treatment.”

  12. markm says:
  13. caj says:

    Cheney was on the radio today saying it is a bad idea to close the place

    Posted by Triumph | January 13, 2009 | 12:36 pm

    Of course he would, he is evil personified and if anybody deserved to go there it should be him.

  14. just me says:

    I think the biggest stumbling block to closing Gitmo is that contrary to popular belief among the anti gitmo crowd, there are some very dangerous people there-they all aren’t innocents picked up in the heat of battle. Some of them are very dangerous.

    It would be political suicide for Obama to bring them to the US. I am sure there are some that think this is a great idea, but the majority of people-many of whom voted for Obama don’t want them here.

    Added to that is that many of the countries these prisoners came from don’t want them either.

    I do think Obama can choose to open up these places to more oversight though, and in the long run if there is more oversight and openness those who very badly want Gitmo closed now will like find it remaining open acceptable.

    The problem is the secrecy and issue of torture and abuse and what type of due process these prisoners should recieve and how open that should be. That can be fixed whether the prisoners are at gitmo or not.

  15. tom p says:

    I think the biggest stumbling block to closing Gitmo is that contrary to popular belief among the anti gitmo crowd, there are some very dangerous people there-they all aren’t innocents picked up in the heat of battle. Some of them are very dangerous.

    Just me: count me as among the “anti-gitmo” crowd, but I don’t think I have ever heard that line of reasoning from ANY of my compatriots. We know there are very dangerous people there. Guilty people. But guilty of what? Give me a year with you and access to the techniques used against these people and I can guarantee one of 2 things: You will confess to b*tt-fing little boys of ages 2 and under or you will be dead (due to my lack of medical experience, I suspect the latter) It won’t mean for even one second you actually did anything illegal, but I can get you to say it.
    Guilt or innocence is not the problem (and make no mistake, ex #1: the Uighers, there are innocent people there) The problem is the Rule of Law.

    Obama has to deal with some rather ugly characters but within the Rule of Law. Maybe you want to throw it out. Bush did. I don’t. Neither does Obama. But what is he to do now?

    A rock and a hard place.