A momentous thing happened yesterday. Significantly breaking from the foreign policy of the last eight years, President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closing of the prison at Gitmo, the secret CIA prisons peppered around the world, and calling for an end to torturous interrogation tactics used for the past several years under the guise of “protecting freedom,” all within the next year! For many, this is a breath of fresh air after eight years of the oppressive, secretive (some say the most secretive administration in history), and destructive foreign policies of the Bush administration. Why do I dare say they were destructive? Because the polices violated our own ethics as to humane treatment of people, including prisoners, and caused many around the world, who once either looked up to the U.S. or were at least indifferent to the U.S., to garner resentment against our government for its “we can do no wrong” attitude.
Amazingly, though, there are those who not only call President Obama’s move today dangerous, but a giant step backward. Weren’t we already backward in our policies? Didn’t we already take a giant leap back when we allowed Former President Bush to enact policies, saddled on the backs of McCarthy-like fears of “the enemy”, that violated rights to privacy and standards of moral treatment, thus putting our troops and our country into even more harms way? To many in this world who were once either indifferent or even considered allies of the U.S., we, who have for so long considered ourselves to be the peace-makers of the world, became the enemy!
Today I read in the New York Times that Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, listed as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said that President Obama’s action today
“places hope ahead of reality—it sets an objective without a plan to get there.”
Am I crazy or does Hoekstra’s statement sound eerily familiar? Isn’t that very similar to what the Democrats, and even some Republicans, were saying about Bush’s strategy for the War on Terror, particularly in the aftermath of the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq? If anything, Obama is reversing bad policy, getting America back on track to once again being among the peacemaking nation, and being clear that we will not violate our own morals and ethics to get there! He is setting the stage and appropriately giving notice to the pro-torture, overly secret, and otherwise dangerous policy wonks in Washington that it is, indeed, a new era. No longer will the U.S. be the bully, but the arbiter. No longer will we walk blindly into conflicts without thinking through the consequences, but will utilize diplomacy to the fullest extent possible, including gaining international support to put pressure on rogue nations. Well, at least for the next four years.