That's a good question. His answer is that "at the same time that Americans want to maintain current policies on drones and detention they are also strongly supportive of returning troops home from Afghanistan." For Obama, as he winds down the war in Afghanistan, "maintaining the current policies on detention and drones is a nice back-up strategy: not only is it an effective way to fight the dwindling groups of jihadist terrorists, but it limits the administration's political exposure if something terrible does happen."
Okay, I'm with him that far. But then he goes off on a strange tangent by trying to deny that Obama actually promised all that often, or all that explicitly, to close Gitmo:
None of this should come as a huge surprise if one looks closely at Obama's rhetoric from the 2008 campaign. Many of the administration's liberal critics on the left have strong memories of Obama blasting the Bush's civil liberties record. They recall Obama's pledge to close Gitmo, extend habeus corpus to terrorists, end torture and, in general, turn the page from the worst excesses of U.S. foreign policy during the Bush years.
But they have a slightly selective memory. Indeed, one is hard pressed to find many examples of candidate Obama pledging to close Guantanamo (though that was clearly and unequivocally his position). He didn't mention it, for example, at the acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008.
Really? One would be hard pressed to find many examples of Obama promising to close Gitmo? Oh no, not in the Age of Google one wouldn't. You could take it from Obama himself, in his November 16, 2008, interview with 60 Minutes, that he said "repeatedly" during the campaign that he would close Gitmo:
And so he did. Obama also wrote that repeatedly, as well. Like in his article for the July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Renewing American Leadership:
“To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people… This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”And in this American Society of International Law, 2008 candidate survey:
Q: What priorities or goals would you establish for the development of existing or new international legal regimes?
A: The next president will have to prioritize restoring our traditions of adherence to international legal regimes and norms ... As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and laws such as our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.And in his major campaign address on foreign policy at the Wilson Center on August 2, 2007:
“As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”And in an ABC News interview right after the election, on January 11, 2009:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also agreed on Guantanamo when you say you want to shut it down. You say you're still going to shut it down. Is it turning out to be harder than you expected, will you get that done in the first 100 days?
OBAMA: It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done [balancing the rule of law with security concerns].
STEPHANOPOULOS: So not necessarily first 100 days.
OBAMA: That's a challenge. I think it's going to take some time and our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus as we speak to help design exactly what we need to do. But I don't want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.On his second day in office, January 22, 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility within one year, and said:
“This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard.”As things turned out, the Obama administration found it a bit too hard to close Gitmo. The WaPo has a detailed autopsy on how that campaign promise died. I, for one, consider it a good thing that Gitmo has stayed in operation. But no one can credibly claim that Obama dd not make that promise a central part of his campaign.
Selective memory, indeed.