How's he doing? Very well, given the mess he inherited. He has implemented key campaign pledges, at least rhetorically, while leaving himself considerable wiggle room. On his first day in office, for instance, he announced that he would close Guantanamo and end "enhanced interrogation techniques," known to most English speakers as torture. But he pushed Gitmo's closure off by a year and created a task force to decide whether, where, and how the "worst of the worst" and future detainees are to be held. While he abolished torture, he formed another group to study which techniques are legitimate and devise a broader framework for their use. Wisely, Obama has usually created a trap door for himself, in case a decision or policy turns out to be unrealistic or unwise.
Despite his inspirational rhetoric, he is remarkably pragmatic, centrist, and in some instances, quite steely. In Iraq, for instance, he set a compromise deadline for withdrawing, but made clear that a deterioration in security might prompt him to reevaluate the pace of withdrawal. In Afghanistan, while he vowed to limit the war to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and its allies," he effectively embraced nation-building by pledging to train Afghan security forces, fight the drug trade, restructure the agricultural sector, reduce corruption, and do what is needed to prevent the Taliban from returning. Under President Obama, the war in Afghanistan has officially become his Af-Pak war. He has "surged" forces while eschewing the word. The number of combat, training, and support troops in Afghanistan is scheduled to increase from the 31,000 deployed at the end of President Bush's term in December, 2008 to some 68,000 this fall.
Several top appointees have military backgrounds or are veterans of the Bush era so despised by the left-wing of his party – Pentagon chief Robert Gates, for instance, General Jim Jones, his national security adviser, and Admiral Dennis Blair, his director of national intelligence. For his secretary of state, he chose former rival Hillary Clinton, whose foreign policy/national security views – having supported the war in Iraq, for one — are much to the right of his own. While he has endorsed greater effort to cooperate with such multilateral institutions as the United Nations, he refused to attend its despicable racism conference in Durban. President Obama clearly knows how to say no.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The formerly jailed New York Times correspondent writes that she likes what she has seen so far: