January 31, 2010

Is President Obama the victim of "the stubborn complexity of his national security inheritance"?

That's Scott Shane's angle in the NYT:
For much of President Obama’s first year in office, his national security team worked to devise a secure plan to send dozens of Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the largest single group at the prison camp — home to Yemen, perhaps to a rehabilitation program....

Since November, the administration had been preparing to move the highest-profile Guantánamo prisoners — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accomplices accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — to Manhattan for a federal criminal trial.
It seems to me that the President is the victim of his own ideas about how to do things differently. If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn't have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value!

Bush — despite his reputation for simplicity — did understand the complexity of the problem, and he had a solution. There was stability. After posturing about "change" in his political campaign, Barack Obama seemed to think that he could apply the immense power he had won to changing things in the real world. And there is no blaming Bush for failing to know the difference between what sounds good and what works well.

George Bush — the extreme contrast to Barack Obama — knew that he was doing a lot of things that didn't sound good and left him open to harsh criticism, but he made a decision early on to accept that and to do what he thought was right. He didn't get enough credit for that. Maybe he will some day. But he also avoided the torrent of justified criticism that would have fallen on him if there had been further terrorist attacks.

Fortunately, there is a limit to how far Obama will go in his dream world of "hope and change." I voted for Obama, but the Obama I voted for was Obama the Pragmatist. I'm glad to see OTP finally emerging, even if part of his pragmatism is blaming Bush. But he will throw that aside if it doesn't work, which it shouldn't. For now, I'm glad he's making some better decisions... even as those freed detainees roam around Yemen.

ADDED: Click and scroll here for all my "Obama the Pragmatist" posts. Like, remember in August 2008 when Joe Biden assured us that Obama "is a clear-eyed pragmatist who will get the job done"? And then there was the time I said:
Forced to choose between Clinton and Obama [in the Wisconsin primary], I voted for Obama — even though he stated positions that were farther from what I want than Clinton's — because I thought he had more mental flexibility and pragmatism, that he was more likely absorb and process evidence and advice and exercise sound judgment.

100 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

"I'm glad to see OTP finally emerging"

You are hoping he has changed.

In all probability, he has not.

Flexo said...

How does one put this delicately? Hmm.

Awfully early to be hitting the crack pipe.

There is a limit to how far Obama will go in his dream world of "hope and change"? If, by that, you mean that he will move on to something else once the collapsed country is reduced to dust, like the WTC, yeah, sure, there is a limit.

One thing is clear about Obama, he is an authoritarian neo-Marxist utopian. His goal, as with all those like him, is to reinvent, not merely the United States, but the world, and to create in its place a "paradise." That's the kind of change we are talking about.

To bring about that level of change, you have to destroy the existing order -- as we have seen with Obama's attempt to take over every existing institution of American life.

ricpic said...

That's it? Pragmatism? How? I'd assume a pragmatic policy toward those who make no bones about their desire to kill you would be to kill, not placate them. Except for one little thing: Zero doesn't see himself as one of us. We have to be apologized for, if not downright sold down the river. Only then will amends have been made to his brethren, the noble towelheads.

Big Mike said...

He didn't get enough credit for that. Maybe he will some day.

He gets credit with you now, and he always got credit with me. But don't hold your breath as far as most people are concerned.

Flexo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SMGalbraith said...

If anything, President Obama is a victim of Candidate Obama's overly simplistic approach on how to handle foreign terrorists.

"We'll just close Gitmo and move on." No, not that easy.

For all of our history - and from what I've read the history of other nations at war - never before have enemy alien combatants been affored the rights and protections that both Bush and now Obama have extended.

There was a reason they weren't given these rights.

As we're learning once again.

Samuel Johnson once pointed out that human beings "need reminding more than they need being informed."

But if you think these are all (or mostly) innocent goat herders, no amount of history or logic will persuade you otherwise.

Flexo said...

Now, some of those around him, his handlers, czars, and department heads, some of whom may be less ideological than he, those who are crass political animals, who merely want to maintain political power, it is more likely that they will make more pragmatic moves, but King Obama? Not a chance.

Whatever "pragmatic" moves that Obama makes is likely to be the actions of pragmatic people under him who act on their own initiative, with Obama being forced to go along with it. For all his ideological make-up, Obama has also shown a willingness to play the cork on the ocean, being tossed about on the waves.

Big Mike said...

@ricpic, I appreciate your sentiments, but I no more like your slur than I like hearing the n-word.

Besides which, the people most apt to be wearing turbans in public are the Sikhs, and they've been fighting Moslems for the 500 or so years that Sikhism has existed.

SMGalbraith said...

authoritarian neo-Marxist utopian

Sorry, not only does that not make sense, it's silly.

What the heck is an authoritarian Marxist? Marxists aren't authoritarians; they're totalitarians.

Obama is a pragmatic liberal Democrat. No Marxist. No authoritarian. No neo nothing.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I voted for McCain, but the McCain I voted for was McCain the anarcho-syndicalist Trotskyite. Who, in my defense, was not quite as imaginary as Obama the Pragmatist.

John Lynch said...

He hasn't really changed that much so far. Iraq is the same, and Afghanistan is escalating. Gitmo is open, and so on. It's hard to see how this is all that much different from Bush.

The real danger is that the deficit will cause us to drastically cut defense spending. That, and the bizarre quest to eliminate our nuclear deterrent just when we need it again, are concrete steps that will be hard to undo.

We have a world-class defense establishment that is beginning to decay. The nuclear weapons we field were produced in the 1980s and haven't been tested since the 1990s. They have vacuum tube components designed in the 70s.

People can blame that on Bush, I suppose, but Obama is the one in charge now. It's easy to believe that cutting defense will lead to peace, but what it really does is limit our choices. That gives our foreign policy away to leaders of other states. That's not serving the American people.

Lem said...

And there is no blaming Bush for failing to know the difference between what sounds goods and what works well.

That logic doesn't stop them from trying. I just heard Juan Williams this morning argue that it was Bush who put terrorist in American jails (he spoke as if Gitmo was not there)

It was unbelievable. Krauthammer was on the verge of a kanipshin.

bagoh20 said...

Yea, I guess your right, if you consider pragmatism to mean how to stop totally blowing it for long enough to get some momentum back so I can go full tilt left again. Pragmatism is not an ideology - it's a methodology. And it's one any survivor uses. The worst thing for this country is if he fools too many more of us as he has you...again.

G Joubert said...

Is "pragmatism" the same thing as trying to do something to staunch the hemmoraging?

Charlie Martin said...

If the silly sonofabitch wasn't ready to cope with the complexity he inherited — active wars, a ruthless and murderous non-state opponent, China and Russia trying to push their way back to power — then maybe he shouldn't have run for the job.

Pogo said...

He's selectively pragmatic, it appears, not so stupid as to double down on health care given its increasing likelihood of failure.

So he's not a megalomaniac a la Chavez; he's got that going for him.

Right now he reminds of a teenage boy always skirting and probing the rules to get by with whatever he can. Gotta watch him like a hawk, and trust involves a short leash.

Obama needs to be a wired mouse, not a wireless one.

Skyler said...

"Obama the Pragmatist?"

You're imagining things.

Anyone who was paying attention and had some common sense could see that he was an ideological marxist.

You're getting closer to seeing reality. But you're not there yet.

The Drill SGT said...

I think your OTP link in the post is circular.

BTW: How's OTP doing with Iran, Germany, France, Taiwan, Israel, or the UK?

Iran, Syria, Hamas, NK, Russia and China all like him better. Does that tell you anything about the effectiveness (for our side) of the pragmatism?

SMGalbraith said...

Let's see: get rid of Bush, ditch the "neocon" policies, press pretend "re-set" button.

Voila! Everything is fixed.

Putin changes, the Mullahs become pragmatists, the problems of Islamic terrorists disappear.

Damned "stubborn complexity."

But remember, Bush and the wingnuts are simpletons.

Yes, Bush was a terrible president. The job was too big for him and he too small for the job.

But those holding simplistic views of the world aren't just on the political right.

EDH said...

"stubborn complexity"

Who could have anticipated that unicorns would be just as stubborn as mules?

P.S. Anybody notice you can't do a "cut and paste" from this NYT page? Is the NYT door already closing?

traditionalguy said...

A pragmatist wants to reach a result and will not confine his tools to any ideology in reaching that result. THE question is what is Obama's desired result. Has anyone got a clue? My suspicion is that he wants to end the USA's evil hegemony over economic and military power in the world that we used to destroy communism. The entire Globe is Warming up for day to bury the Wicked Witch of the West, and Obama is sending them out the signals that it is almost time. IMO Obama is simply an enemy of the USA that he was elected to serve.Since he won he demands that we bow to his rule, which all have done except for that Non-News organisation called the Fox in Obama's hen house.

SMGalbraith said...

"Ideological authoritarian Marxists" don't negotiate. Or compromise.

They impose.

If Obama is as radical as some think, healthcare reform is rammed through. Cap and trade is rammed through.

Afghanistan is abandoned. Iraq is abandoned. Gitmo is closed, damned the consequences.

Et cetera, et cetera.

c3 said...

I voted for Obama, but the Obama I voted for was Obama the Pragmatist.

Pragmatism is pursuing "what works". Knowing "what works" comes with experience; comes with trying something as an executive and seeing how the bureaucracy and the politics get in the way; comes with pushing a bill, gathering support, cajoling colleagues and then counting the votes; .....

I don't and have never seen Barack Obama having that experience to allow him to be a "pragmatic" leader.

I would agree that Pres. Obama sees himself as "reasonable" and that the distance (from his viewpoint) between "reasonable" and "pragmatic" is short.

But to use his phrase: With all due respect Mr President, I disagree. I hate to say it but what is lacking is....
humility.

PS: Even the press is using the "inheritance" bit?

Opus One Media said...

"Bush — despite his reputation for simplicity — did understand the complexity of the problem, and he had a solution.....but he made a decision early on to accept that and to do what he thought was right."

Or expedient.
Or what Cheney wanted.
Or nothing which passed for 'right' in his mind.

The first step in overcoming denial is realizing that what you are doing or what you were doing is or was wrong.

Freeman Hunt said...

Skyler said...
Anyone who was paying attention and had some common sense could see that he was an ideological marxist.

I have to agree with that. Thinking he was a pragmatist was based on what? That some people thought he was intelligent and that some people did not think he was excitable? He'd never even been responsible for anything, so I'm not sure how his pragmatism could be inferred.

Everything he said was pure far left ideology punctuated with the buzzwords "hope" and "change." None of it sounded very pragmatic.

But hey, at least he's keeping some of the Bush national security stuff. Hooray for that.

Pogo said...

His speeches suggested pragmatism.
He pragmatically changed the words to reflect a moderate approach, one more likely to sell than his actual utopian beliefs.

His deeds, in contrast, spoke otherwise.

Freeman Hunt said...

Wait, there was one good promise in his campaign, and that was for greater transparency, posting bills online and that sort of thing.

But at the time that looked like a lie because he was also asking for government to be invoked everywhere, and there was no way for that to happen with greater transparency in place.

So as it turns out, what looked like a lie at the time, really was a lie in later fact.

SMGalbraith said...

The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Barack Obama, Nobel speech.

A "Marxist ideologue" simply doesn't deliver the above lines about the United States.

Jeffrey said...

I voted for Gore in 2000. In 2004, however, after coming to respect his style of leadership, I voted for George Bush. To me, the best example of George Bush's character as a leader was when, in 2007, he listened to General Petraeus and -- when almost everyone else was urging him to pull the troops out of Iraq immediately -- decided to not only NOT pull US forces out but to increase the number and change the basic strategy of how to use them inside Iraq (US forces moved into local communities and working alongside Iraqi soldiers): the "surge," as it came to be called, which turned out to be the correct move. The list of those who ridiculed his decision is long, indeed.

I have written about this elsewhere (A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007) and include here a paragraph that shows the kind of opposition Bush and Petraeus faced back then (some of you may have forgotten):

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the day before hearing the testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, already dismissed the results. "I really respect him, but I think he's dead flat wrong," Biden said about General Petraeus on September 9, 2007. After two days of testimony, Senator Biden was still not persuaded that the new strategy was working. In an interview a few days after the hearing, Senator Biden said, "I give the strategy no chance of succeeding. Zero."

Obama has yet to make a comparable decision (unpopular but necessary). Presidents, I should add, have very difficult duties. They need to listen to their advisors, listen to the American public, and yet make what they think are the best decisions, even if the majority of people disagree with that decision.

Along with Ann, I hope that Obama becomes more pragmatic and less ideological. Still, some of his choices, pragmatic or not, are going to be hard to make. It's part of the job.

Lem said...

The first step in overcoming denial is realizing that what you are doing or what you were doing is or was wrong.

Agreed.

Kirby Olson said...

What was Obama thinking when he bowed to the emperor of Japan?

Was that pragmatic?

It's very hard to understand Obama.

I see him as part of the left that started chanting, "Hey hey ho ho western civ has got to go."

He's another Ward Churchill.

Pogo said...

"A "Marxist ideologue" simply doesn't deliver the above lines about the United States."

Then you know very little about marxists.

They don't believe their own words, they only say them because we believe them.

Robert Cook said...

"It seems to me that the President is the victim of his own ideas about how to do things differently."

Which is to say: abiding by our traditional practices of trying criminals in courts of law, afforded due process...as is Constitutionally required.

"If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn't have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value!"

It seems he has very much accepted the inheritance of lawlessness left by George Bush, if covertly in some respects, and if belatedly in other respects.

Make no mistake, we are witnessing the birthing of the American police state, and the tactics applied against terrorists, alleged (the many) or actual, (the few), can and have been applied to American citizens. The President may deem any person, an American citizen as much as anyone, a "terrorist" and can thus hold him indefinitely without charge, stripped of his habeas corpus rights, and subject to the tender mercies of the "rough men" (and women) who have already beaten and tortured to death other prisoners of our terror war.

One could at least "credit" Bush, if that's the word, for believing in the brutal thuggery he unleashed, while Obama, the Barney Fife of Pennsylvania Avenue, who espoused a return to lawful treatment of suspected terrorists, has acquiesced to official outlawry due to his ambition for power and craven unwillingness to uphold his oath of office.

kcom said...

I enjoyed your post, Jeffrey. It was in that same time frame that Bush took one look at the report of the Iraq Study Group and (rightfully) tossed it in the trash. That was a recipe for abject failure (and defeatism).

SMGalbraith said...

Which is to say: abiding by our traditional practices of trying criminals in courts of law, afforded due process...as is Constitutionally required.

US criminals or criminals here legally.

Never before has any country - including this one - given civilian trials to enemy alien combatants captured during war.

That's the tradition that we've established. Lincoln did it, FDR did it, Truman did.

Besides, once again, they didn't commit crimes. They committed acts of war. Which is why we can shoot them or drop bombs on them without getting a warrant.

bagoh20 said...

"I voted for Obama, but the Obama I voted for was Obama the Pragmatist."

When did you see this person? He never did anything that showed it. You mean that he said he was. The Obama you created is your responsibility. Don't blame Obama. He was just trying to get elected.

Robert Cook said...

"The real danger is that the deficit will cause us to drastically cut defense spending."

Ah, if only this were to be. We need to slash our defense spending to a fraction of what it is, so we may apply those funds to more crucially needed programs that will benefit Americans: improvement of our crumbling physical infrastructure, a rebuilding of our manufacturing base, universal health care, and the like. But, it will never happen, so you needn't worry. Rather, they will starve us of everything else we pay for with our taxes before they will ever restrict a penny of war spending.

"That, and the bizarre quest to eliminate our nuclear deterrent just when we need it again, are concrete steps that will be hard to undo."

Eliminating our "nuclear deterrent" will also never happen, so you again need not lose any sleep over it; we will very likely use some portion of our "deterrent" force to murder millions of people somewhere in the world sometime in this century.

SMGalbraith said...

Then you know very little about marxists.

They don't believe their own words, they only say them because we believe them.


So if Obama says and does "Marxist" things, that proves he's a Marxist.

And if he doesn't say or do "Marxist" things, that also makes him a Marxist.

Sorry, I'll need more.

Jeffrey said...

kcom,

Thanks. Was Biden's idea of dividing Iraq into three parts included in the Iraq Study Group report? People have forgotten about that one, too. I really had to laugh when, last week, the administration sent now-VP Biden to Iraq to help with the divisive issue of the candidate list for upcoming elections. I can only imagine what the Iraqi politicians were saying about Biden behind closed doors.

Robert Cook said...

"Besides, once again, they didn't commit crimes. They committed acts of war."

Says who? Without determining the guilt of alleged terrorists in our hands through the legal process of trials, how do you know who of them are actually guilty of anything? And how are you defining "acts of war" or "terrorists?" Iraqis or Afghanis who took up arms to defend their countries against invading forces? Hapless innocents who were kidnapped and sold to American forces as "terrorists" simply for the bounty we paid? These are most of those whom we have deemed "terrorists" and have held in black holes for years.

Besides, we have tried terrorists as criminals in our civilian courts: Clinton did it with the perpetrators of the original Trade Tower attacks, and Bush did it with Richard Reid, the would be shoe bomber.

Greenwald has a very good column today on this topic.

Paul said...

But he IS a pragmatist. However his pragmatism is not focused on serving the interests of The United States Of America. It is focused on the power and glory of Barack Obama.

bagoh20 said...

I know a lot of Obama voters like Ann are probably waiting for the economy to turn around so they can say: See, I was smart.

Things will improve, they are cyclical, no matter who is President. The real issue is that, except with Reagan, we as a nation have moved slowly leftward. This has eroded what made us the world leader in nearly everything.

We will have ups and downs, but as we move left, we will gradually sink like a boat slowly taking on water. Obama will not sink us, pragmatism rooted in survival will prevent that, but he will add a huge hole in the hull bigger than all the ones we already have.

SMGalbraith said...

The President may deem any person, an American citizen as much as anyone, a "terrorist" and can thus hold him indefinitely without charge, stripped of his habeas corpus rights

Once again, false. They do not lose their habeas rights.

Only Congress may suspend habeas corpus. And they haven't done it.

The government has always had preventive detention power under, among other things, the exigent circumstances of the Fourth Amendment.

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Lynch said...

Robert Cook-

I'd rather it wasn't millions of Americans murdered. Since the nuclear deterrent is just that, having the ability makes it less likely we'll have to use it. So far that's been true.

When the US murders millions of people overseas, be sure to let us know. So far that's been the province of our enemies. Even in Iraq, most of the people murdered were killed by the rebels we are fighting.

I know some people like to think we are a warlike empire that likes to kill people, but the US military is remarkably bad at mass murder compared to our enemies. They always seem to manage to kill more people than we do. Usually it's the people they claim to be fighting for.

It's remarkable to me that critics of the US continually miss the rather obvious fact that most of our wars are against murderous dictatorships and our ideological opponents always seem to be good at killing their own people.

If the government should care more about Americans, that includes defense. We can't have infrastructure if someone else blows it up. That's totally legitimate, and pretending otherwise is not acknowledging reality.

SMGalbraith said...

Says who? Without determining the guilt of alleged terrorists in our hands through the legal process of trials, how do you know who of them are actually guilty of anything?

A legal process was established to settle this.

Combatant Status Review Tribunals followed by Military Trials with the right to appeal the decision in our civilian courts.

More rights were given to these enemy alien combatants than in any war in history by any country.

garage mahal said...

Never before has any country - including this one - given civilian trials to enemy alien combatants captured during war.

We also didn't hold them in prisons forever, otherwise we would still have prisons with captured enemies from all our past wars. Not one trial and conviction in 8 yrs of a terrorist under Bush, and Althouse is cheering that as some sort of achievement Obama is squandering?. Who comes up this shit.

Robert Cook said...

"Anyone who was paying attention and had some common sense could see that (Obama) was an ideological marxist."

Sure, if middle of the road policy proposals tinged with a few liberal-ish promises to help American citizens enduring a harsh economy and espousal of a return to due process is ideologically Marxist.

As you can see, however, Obama was simply pandering to the sissies who believe in rule of law in order to win their votes. He's turning into Bush-lite before our eyes, and so rapidly that we will probably have cause to excise the "-lite" from any future description of him.

SMGalbraith said...

Besides, we have tried terrorists as criminals in our civilian courts: Clinton did it with the perpetrators of the original Trade Tower attacks, and Bush did it with Richard Reid, the would be shoe bomber.

Those were terrorists captured on US soil. And, with the Trade Towers attack, before the use of military force was authorized by Congress. And before military tribunals had been established.

Again, the Trade Tower attackers were here legally and were afforded US Constitutional Rights. And war had not been authorized by Congress.

Once again: these are enemy alien combatants captured overseas during a declared war.

Never before has the US given civilian trials to such people.

That's the "tradition" that we've developed.

That you don't know any of this - the combatant status review panels, military trials, right to appeal - is shocking.

Jeffrey said...

In 2008, as a registered Democrat, I voted for Obama over Hillary Clinton for one reason: I did not want to see Bill Clinton hanging around the White House for another four years. I know that may sound like a ludicrous reason, but I just did want to have Bill groping women in the White House again (I think it looks bad for the country).

In the general election, however, I voted for McCain. From the first day, I found Obama's speeches like fingernails on a chalkboard. The so-called soaring speeches were so irritating that I more often than not had to hit the mute button on the remote.

But, even though I did not vote for him, Obama seemed like a GUY to me. By that I mean that he seemed at least virile enough not to want to look like a WIMP, whether on the basketball court or in front of the world. I figured once he had access to classified information on what people were trying to do to us he would man up and protect us. To some extent, that has happened. The Nobel Prize speech was Obama being an American Man in front of a bunch of people who would like to see our decline (sooner rather than later).

Metanis said...

Ann, you think 10% unemployment is just a number? Do you have any idea of the real misery to people and families? Yet your golden boy Obama is only making things worse and you still refuse to hold him to account. He is a disaster. Quit being flip about it.

SMGalbraith said...

Not one trial and conviction in 8 yrs of a terrorist under Bush, and Althouse is cheering that as some sort of achievement Obama is squandering?.

Padilla, Moussaoui and a bunch of other smaller types, e.g., Buffalo Six, are in jail.

Try again.

garage mahal said...

Outside civilian courts I should have added.

From Inwood said...

Verdict First, trial later:

Instapundit 1/31/10:

ROBERT GIBBS OPENS HIS MOUTH AND
REMOVES ALL DOUBT:

Gibbs: Accused 9/11 plotter likely to be executed.

“Accused Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is likely to be executed after being tried and convicted, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday.” This statement, from an official White House spokesman, seems a bit indiscreet. Certainly if the goal is to impress the rest of the world with the fairness of our civilian judicial system, official statements that treat conviction and execution as near-certain would seem to undercut the whole point of the exercise.

UPDATE: Power Line: The Holder Hangover — And Whence It Comes.

JAL said...

@Althouse mental flexibility

?

@Pogo So he's not a megalomaniac a la Chavez; he's got that going for him.

Chavez wants to mentor him. Why?

@TradGuy he wants to end the USA's evil hegemony over economic and military power in the world

BHO does not love what America is because he was not brought up (not the birther issue) in the American experience. He soaked up Frank Marshall Davis.

@RCook Which is to say: abiding by our traditional practices of trying criminals in courts of law, afforded due process...as is Constitutionally required.

And the traditional way of dealing with enemy combatants who are captured is .... (Think "war.")

The distinction escapes RC.

I think the Professor was a victim of the blank screen phenomena.

Robert Cook said...

"That you don't know any of this - the combatant status review panels, military trials, right to appeal - is shocking.

Oh, I know about the combatant status review panels and the military tribunals. It was as a result of the combatant status panels--or some similar process--that a majority of those we have held at Guantanamo have been determined--after years of imprisonment--to be innocent of terrorism and have been released. Given this, how can we be confident that many of those still held are not also innocent?

The military tribunals are intended to be Star Chambers where the outcome is predetermined. They will never try anyone they do not intend to convict. That you do not know this is shocking.

Oligonicella said...

Althouse --
"... the Obama I voted for was Obama the Pragmatist ..."

I don't ever recall seeing that individual. Perhaps you were simply snowed and now it's melting.

SMGalbraith said...

Outside civilian courts I should have added.

And why is that?

Because they've been caught up in civilian courts and the appeals process.

Every time the Bush Administration started up the process - Combatant Status Review or Trials - the courts stepped in.

FDR shot people like this (Operation Pastorius) in less than two months.

Hell, FDR and Truman held over 300,000 German POWS in the US for several years. It was inconceivable that those prisoners had habeas or constitutional rights.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Awfully early to be hitting the crack pipe."

Flexo, watch your mouth.

I think Ann's take here is too forgiving, but still spot-on, and should compel she and others with buyer's remorse to reassess not just Obama but themselves, because not catching on to him - early - is a clear signal something's severely wrong with how they make social judgments, especially regarding character. I mean, even after Obama told them people see in him what they want to see, no light went on. A light should have went on.

It really should've.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

And when Joe Biden says something, you can take it to the bank!

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Joe Biden is such a salt of the earth that how can you not believe what he says re: Obama's pragmatism!

MayBee said...

"Pragmatism" was the word used by supporters of candidate Obama to describe the special sauce that would magically marry his opposing "on the one hand...on the other hand" rhetoric.

How can you be all things to all people? Pragmatism.

Pogo said...

"So if Obama says and does "Marxist" things, that proves he's a Marxist.
And if he doesn't say or do "Marxist" things, that also makes him a Marxist.
Sorry, I'll need more.
"

You've got it wrong.

His words mean nothing; he will say what he needs to say (That's not the Rev. Wright I knew.")

Watch what he does. Lech Walesa lived under Marxism, and he spoke in Chicago recently, agreeing the US was veering toward socialsim.

EnigmatiCore said...

"that he was more likely absorb and process evidence and advice and exercise sound judgment"

And, since you wanted this to be true, and likely want it to be true now, you will look for any evidence that it is true, even if there is ample counter-evidence, even if you have noted the counter-evidence.

It is just human nature.

Bill Kilgore said...


Make no mistake, we are witnessing the birthing of the American police state, and the tactics applied against terrorists, alleged (the many) or actual, (the few), can and have been applied to American citizens.


Mr. Cook, rather unwittingly, stumbles upon a startling realization. The previous President, whose concerns weren't premised on big smiles at cocktail parties, worked to insure that the efforts being applied to sponsors of terrorism were not applicable to Americans generally. There were errors on this score to be sure (Padilla) but the general thrust in this regard was undeniable.

To the contrary, largely through a spectacular failure to honestly engage the issue, Obama has done exactly the opposite. We are witnessing the birth of "the Obama Precedent." Namely that one who is picked up by the military, is held without an attorney, is subject to enhanced interrogation, is pronounced guilty and sentenced by the chief Executive before trial, and who is acknowledged to be unsuitable for release even if found innocent- is a suitable person for our civilian courts. Besides the absurdity of the effort, the import is obscene- it is the very foundation of a police state. Fostered through a spectacularly inept President whose ability to see more than a few seconds down the road is entirely unsubstantiated.

It may be that history judges the Obama Precedent favorably- I'm disinclined to believe that and I'll not extend him a similar courtesy at this time. Obama's handling of this issue, both before and during his Presidency, is atrocious by any measure.

SMGalbraith said...

For the life of me (original I ain't), I can't understand why the legal process and safeguards we use to try our own men and women in uniform is insufficient to use against enemy alien combatants captured during war.

Why must we give more rights to alien terrorists than our own people?

We've never done it before.

Peano said...

A pragmatist claims to reject ideology in favor of what works.

“What works” is what is “best for the country” or what best promotes our “national interest.”

But “best for the country” and “national interest” entail value judgments, and value judgments are by definition philosophical, ideological.

So, when Obama claims to be “not an ideologue, but a pragmatist,” he is being disingenuous. It is logically impossible to separate “what works” from ideology.


If there’s a flaw in that argument, I would like for someone to point it out.

EnigmatiCore said...

One flaw with it was your choice to put it all in bold.

I reflexively skip most of the text in posts like that.

Charlie Martin said...

If Obama is as radical as some think, healthcare reform is rammed through. Cap and trade is rammed through.

It's not like it wasn't attempted.

I think this really summarizes the brilliance of the Constitution: it makes it very difficult for a wannabe caudillo to push his revisions through before there's another election.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

But “best for the country” and “national interest” entail value judgments, and value judgments are by definition philosophical, ideological.

So, when Obama claims to be “not an ideologue, but a pragmatist,” he is being disingenuous. It is logically impossible to separate “what works” from ideology.

If there’s a flaw in that argument, I would like for someone to point it out.


Here's your flaw. A value judgment is not, by definition, philosophical or ideological.

I happen to like Orange Mango flavored Nantucket Nectar. I deem it good for me and will organize my budget around it.

This is a matter of taste and has nothing to do with any ideological or philosophical imperative.

Some people find high unemployment to be bad for the country. Maybe that's a value judgment, maybe their reasoning involves other macroeconomic effects that result from high unemployment.

But a value judgment requires no philosophical or ideological reasoning in itself.

At the end of the movie Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster's character is asked by her FBI colleague whether or not she fears that Hannibal Lecter will come after her. She replies that she thinks he won't, because "he would consider that rude."

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Some preferences are just that, and nothing more.

bagoh20 said...

It always comes back to moral relativism.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Yes! My preference for Nantucket Nectars is bred of moral relativism! Yes! My interest in keeping the country out of unsustainable debt - once again, moral relativism!

I think this buzzword still has more mileage in it, Bag O.

dick said...

Is it pragmatism to follow the policies that worked for your predecessor and claim them as your own all the while blaming any problems on the same predecessor? If that is what you term pragmatism, then I for one want nothing to do with it. He is not being a pragmatist; he is being an opportunist, trying to play to all the different sides of the electorate in hopes that he will not be totally destroyed politically in the fall elections. I hope he fails in this.

bagoh20 said...

There are values and there are values. What flavor you like is not a value - it just works out that English allows you to use the same word.

george said...

Pragmatic! Yeah, I guess that explains why the country is on the brink of open rebellion and Lech Walensa himself felt compelled to come here and try to save us from the abyss as we once saved Poland. This is a man who lived under what Obama envisions for America and yet Obama is not to be seen as extreme in his ideology... no perish the thought. After all, what would Walensa know about Marxism?

I like Althouse but Ringling Brothers employs clowns with more dignity than to write a phrase like "Obama the pragmatic." I cringed for her when I read that.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

There are (morals) and there are (morals). What policy you favor is not a moral - it just works out that English allows you to use the same word.

At some point, people like the things they do because they have a preference for them. Just because the social contract requires that people formulate some argument for why they favor this code of behavior, this rule, or that law, doesn't mean that preferences don't apply. If anything, evidence shows that people first choose the policy, or code, or rule they want, and then construct their "reasoning" for why it is the proper course.

Although, I should say... "and then construct their 'reasoning' for why others should believe it is the proper course," because they, themselves, are already convinced. Based on preference - regardless of the necessity of that preference.

Just ask any lawyer.

Just Lurking said...

garage mahal said:
We also didn't hold them in prisons forever, otherwise we would still have prisons with captured enemies from all our past wars. Not one trial and conviction in 8 yrs of a terrorist under Bush,

Bush was in the process of finding a way to try the detainees, since 2001. He faced an unprecedented situation- an enemy that was not in uniform captured in a war seemingly w/o a defined end. That led to inevitable bickering among Congress as to how to handle the detainees, and a Supreme Court ruling against Bush:

link

From the linked article (highlighting mine):

But the court's action was clearly a setback for the White House. At the high court, its approach to the war on terrorism has suffered the broadest in a series of defeats, and the administration has been sent back to the drawing board in dealing with hundreds of suspected members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda -- at a time when international pressure is mounting to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

This is not the situation the president envisioned when he unveiled the military commissions as a tough-minded alternative to the civilian trials that the Clinton administration had used against terrorists. As first outlined in 2001, the commissions did not give defendants a presumption of innocence or guarantee a public trial.

Yet the swift and certain punishment that supporters of the commissions expected has not materialized. The commissions quickly became mired in questions about what many saw as their lack of due process for defendants, and about the unilateral way in which Bush had created them.


People have short memories and forget what a crisis Bush was responding to. 9/11 was the first attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. Bush did not know if there was more to come, but had to assume it would. Hence the Patriot act, Guantanamo, the Yoo memo, etc., that in peacetime might be seen as an abuse of power.

People can, and will, reasonably debate whether Bush's responses to 9/11- which included the controversial decision to take out Sadam- were good ones. But reasonable people agree that he HAD to respond. But there are those who will go on about BusHiltler as if 9/11 never happened. There is no reasoning with them.

We are still in uncertain times regarding our war status. After the Christmas undie-bomber, Obama said we are at war against Al Quaeda. Who are they, exactly? Where are they? How do we effectively fight this war?

This is part of what O inherited. It is not his fault, but it cannot be fairly blamed on Bush either. Muslim extremists and terrorists have been plotting against American interests long before Bush was in office.

Obama, like Bush, will be judged based on how he decides to react to the threat of Islamic jihadists. He will inevitably make some mistakes. The worst mistake would be for him to believe he can make it all go away just by being Obama.

I think the undie-bomber was a dose of reality for the man. So was the Brown election in MA. If OTP does emerge and saves this presidency, he should send a thank you note to Scott Brown.

buster said...

Ritmo Brasileiro said:

"I happen to like Orange Mango flavored Nantucket Nectar. I deem it good for me and will organize my budget around it.

This is a matter of taste and has nothing to do with any ideological or philosophical imperative."

This is a preference, not a value judgment. They are different categories.

Cabbage said...

If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn't have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value!

What apt language: today, two Sundays before the beginning of Great Lent, Orthodox churches across the world read the parable of the prodigal son.

buster said...

There is a logical difference between value judgments and preferences: a value judgment is universalizable and a preference is not. \

If someone says that abortion is always wrong, he means it is always wrong for everyone, including those who think that abortion is sometimes or always not wrong.

But if he says that chocolate ice cream tastes better than vanilla, he doesn't mean that someone would be mistaken to think that vanilla is better than chocolate.

buster said...

Right on, Cabbage!!

c3 said...

I did not want to see Bill Clinton hanging around the White House for another four years.
Its good to know someone else had that same anxiety.

Peano said...

Ritmo says (why am I even bothering?): "I happen to like Orange Mango flavored Nantucket Nectar.... This is a matter of taste and has nothing to do with any ideological or philosophical imperative."

I agree. But you err in equating expressions of taste with value judgments. They aren't judgments at all.

An alcoholic has a taste (a preference) for, say, bourbon. His decision not to indulge that taste rests on a judgment. But the taste or preference itself is not a judgment.

Flexo said...

Well, the Pragmatic Barack Obama has proposed a $3.8 TRILLION budget, $1.6 TRILLION of which we do not have, after spending $1.4 trillion last year that we did not have.

It seems to me that a pragmatic person could find some way to live on a measly $2.2 trillion a year, but if you are determined to destroy the country in such a way that they economy cannot recover as part of a normal cycle, then this is certainly one great way to do it.

Paul said...

Pragmatism must be seen in light of using means to an end, but first the end must be defined.

The disconnect here is that some people assume the end for Obama is the furthering of America's self interest.

I believe furthering America's self interest, or even pretending to, is only a (possible) means not an end for Obama.

The end for Obama is.....Obama. More specifically, the image of Obama as reflected in the eyes of the onlooker.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I notice this tendency to stretch the term "value" by loading it with an extra term: "judgment". I'm sure it is easier to argue that values are "universalizable" (sic) if you do that. But I didn't. Both "value" and "value judgment" have in common between them the following term: value. How easy it is to sidestep that fact and avoid addressing the real matter here: That values are subjective. Even personal.

Efforts to universalize things occur when the social contract demands that we do so. If the social contract is newly explicated in such a way as to prioritize according to a certain value "judgment", or shift therein, so be it. But values are values and most people have a preference for this policy or that based on what those values are, based on what they, personally, value.

Now, someone may grow to find a certain policy preference (or their value for it) more or less important, more or less desirable, based on the judgment made by a series of rationalizations. But to pretend that everyone's worldview is constructed from scratch based on a series of logical arguments alone, and not on any assumptions that were given value by virtue of their never before having been questioned, is absurd.

It is also a logical impossibility, if you accept Goedel's incompleteness theorem.

To pretend that there is no emotional/subjective/"value-based" underpinning to our value judgments is simply ridiculous. If our species were ever to transplant itself to the planet Vulcan, then you might have a case. But I can't believe, for instance, that someone values the right to self-defense in the heat of an attack because they spent the time to rationalize why it is not only right, but imperative to do so. They valued that reaction and acted upon it instinctively.

And so go their reactions to most laws or restrictions on their lives, proposed or otherwise - the presumptive "universalizability" of such reactions to those codes notwithstanding. And that's because such "universalizability" doesn't usually exist.

Peano said...

Ritmo Socratus again: "How easy it is to sidestep that fact and avoid addressing the real matter here: That values are subjective."

If you believe that the value of oxygen is subjective, perform an experiment and do us all a favor into the bargain: Go without it for a hour or two.

jaed said...

I remember saying at one point that Hillary wuld have a better chance if she made an ironclad campaign promise to have cattle prods issued to each and every female intern, staffer, Cabinet member, foreign dignitary, and any other woman who set foot in the White House during her presidency at any time her husband was in residence.

I was joking, but I wonder how many voters like Jeffrey she would have gotten had the Bill Horndog Factor not been in operation...

(vw: twerat. I'm not gonna go near that.)

kentuckyliz said...

If it swims like a Marxist and quacks like a Marxist....

Ritmo Brasileiro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I'm not aware there were any laws (proposed or already in existence) mandating that we value oxygen as our only possible electron source for cellular respiration, Peano.

Social values, OTOH, are as much subjective as they can be made to sound objective.

Seriously, what is so hard to understand about the difference?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Oh, and nice job equating me to Socrates and then proposing my death. I suppose there should be no irony in that linkage, Asshole.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that someone who alters images for a living doesn't want others to catch on to the fact that social values are subjective.

Sssshhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone!

A digital image alteration specialist who wishes death upon others. I'm wondering if the interest that inspired you toward the business you're in was drawn from political sources.

Hmmmmmm...

Fen said...

I see Ritmo failed to accept the challenge to go without O2 for an hour.

Fen said...

Bill Kilgore: The previous President, whose concerns weren't premised on big smiles at cocktail parties, worked to insure that the efforts being applied to sponsors of terrorism were not applicable to Americans generally. There were errors on this score to be sure (Padilla) but the general thrust in this regard was undeniable.

To the contrary, largely through a spectacular failure to honestly engage the issue, Obama has done exactly the opposite. We are witnessing the birth of "the Obama Precedent." Namely that one who is picked up by the military, is held without an attorney, is subject to enhanced interrogation, is pronounced guilty and sentenced by the chief Executive before trial, and who is acknowledged to be unsuitable for release even if found innocent- is a suitable person for our civilian courts. Besides the absurdity of the effort, the import is obscene- it is the very foundation of a police state. Fostered through a spectacularly inept President whose ability to see more than a few seconds down the road is entirely unsubstantiated.


Excellent point.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I could offer Fen the challenge of seeing what would happen if he would bother to allow O2 to actually reach his brain, but as we can see this would be practically impossible for him to do.

former law student said...

For all of our history - and from what I've read the history of other nations at war - never before have enemy alien combatants been affored the rights and protections that both Bush and now Obama have extended.

Better read your history again.

Elevating terrorists to nation status didn't start till W. took office. The W. Administration developed the concept of terrorist thugs = enemy alian combatant out of thin air.

For two and a quarter centuries, every enemy combatant we came across represented a country with which we were at war.

Now if you want to attack Bin Laden's home country of Saudi Arabia, while I would deplore it it would make sense form a historical point of view.