President Obama has been trying to shut down Gitmo for 5 1/2 years, but reality keeps getting in the way. The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala proves the point.
Obama announced Khatalla is heading for the United States. But, we learn from media reports, he may be heading there very slooowly. That’s because the administration wants to interrogate him for intelligence information before he hits U.S. shores and grabs First Amendment protection. And if he is tight-lipped, does the slow boat to the United States with on-board interrogators sail around in circles? If Obama really believed his own rhetoric that foreign terrorists are akin to U.S. defendants, he’d shut Gitmo and stop the at-sea interrogations. But he can’t do that. At least not yet.
Obama is bent on ending wars but can’t end them because he lacks the perseverance to win them. Had he kept after al-Qaeda following Osama bin Laden’s assassination, not given a date to bug out of Afghanistan, secured a status of forces agreement in Iraq, and knocked Bashar al-Assad out of power early on (or quickly aided non-jihadi rebels) we might be a lot closer to ending the war by decimating al-Qaeda and removing the potential for safe havens, let alone an entire jihadist state. And think of the impact on the mullah’s thinking had we done all that.
The fantasy of ending wars explains why Obama is always racing to catch up to events. We’re attacked in Benghazi, and then we respond (going on two years later, we capture one terrorist and send him to court). Iraq is disintegrating before our eyes, and then we look over the options. Syria becomes a mass killing zone and al-Qaeda magnet, and then the president wants to do something about it. His default position is always to disengage, declare premature victory and give a speech. That’s his ideal post-war approach. But since the war against jihadis is very much with us, his hear-no-evil-see-no-evil strategy falters again and again. Then he’s back to chasing down terrorists and trying to keep death, destruction and refugees from spreading throughout the Middle East. He’d even run to Iran to help us with Iraq, just as he off-loaded Syria to Russia.
The ranking member on the Hose Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), called rushing to Iran for help with Iraq “grasping at straws.” Indeed it is. By refusing to recognize that the war against jihadis still rages, the president puts us at a strategic disadvantage again and again. This requires going to enemies for help, empowering them because we do not want to do the job of leading the Free World.
A more realistic and effective foreign policy would recognize that we face a threat from Islamic fundamentalism, not one branch or another of a terrorist network. It would comprehend that swift, certain action to head off terrorists’ in-roads save us blood and treasure down the road. And an un-Obama foreign policy would also plan to leave U.S. troops in non-combat situations as we did after WW II to help governments in danger of splintering become inclusive and stable. We would continue intelligence-gathering and keep using drones to kill terrorists overseas; both techniques can save lives. And yes, we leave open Gitmo, since ultimately we need to a place to put very dangerous people who can’t be tried or released and who must be interrogated for vital information. Find a 2016 presidential candidate who’d agree with all that and you’d have someone capable of ending the U.S. foreign policy tailspin.