President-elect Barack Obama said this weekend that he does not expect to
close Guantanamo Bay in his first 100 days in office.
“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,” Obama said in an exclusive “This Week” interview with George Stephanopoulos, his first since arriving in Washington.
“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” the president-elect explained. “Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo-American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”
Now, I have long said that closing GITMO is not nearly as simple as those that proclaim it think. Barack Obama has long been one of the chief critics of GITMO. He can be a critic for just more than another week. After that, he can no longer be in a position to criticize but rather to act.
Now that this realization is upon him it also appears that he maybe realizing the road from critic to decision maker is not so simple on GITMO. It appears that while he has long criticized GITMO he doesn't have an alternative answer just yet. Of course, this raises a troubling question. If he doesn't have a better idea, why was he so boisterous in criticizing GITMO? No one is claiming that GITMO is perfect, but if you have no alternative, how does it help to criticize?
That appears to be exactly what Obama has done for two plus years. It appears he got a lot of mileage out of criticizing the current policy on GITMO. It also appears that he saw no political advantage in offering an alternative. After all, an alternative could itself be criticized. In fact, an alternative could be analyzed to be a significantly worse idea than GITMO itself. As such, all he did was criticize without once thinking of an alternative himself. While this may have given him some political mileage, it in no way prepared him for the task he is about to undertake. Obama has long been a chief critic of current policy. Only, it appears that on GITMO at least, he never had any alternative solutions to speak of. Such a dual position doesn't give me great confidence that he is ready for the task he is about to undertake.