Guest post by Randall Ryder
President Bush was lambasted by many for approaching the war on terror with a cowboy mentality and viewing things in black and white. A year into the Obama administration, have the policies changed, and are things better?
The attempted Christmas Day attack demonstrated failures among the agencies charged with protecting American citizens. The White House has criticized the agencies for failing to share and then act on "actionable intelligence." As a result, the White House promises changes in the way agencies share and classify intelligence information from this point forward. There can be little doubt President Obama has every intention of increasing the effectiveness of these agencies, but has there been any noticable shift in the approach to the "war on terror?" In some ways yes, but in many ways, no.
There is absolutely no doubt the administration has made a concerted effort to reshape the world’s perception of America, and America foreign policy. Obama has reached out to Muslims, changed the actual language in reference to the "war on terror," and is committed to fixing the problem in the long-term by trying to change the overall tone and mood of the war on terror.
Obama retained his predecessor’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates. Many of the criticisms of Bush’s approach, interrogation techniques, Guanantano Bay, and the military commissions, were all undergoing radical changes by Bush’s second term. Obama, however, did place a high priority on condemning the suspect interrogation methods authorized under Bush, a strong signal to separate himself from this predecessor’s policies. But many of the personnel involved in anti-terrorism activities from Bush are in the same role under Obama.
In terms of day to day operations, Obama has increased the use of unmanned drones against Al Qaeda, demonstrating a commitment to active operations against terrorists. But civilian death rates still hover around 24% from drone strikes. Although this represents an "improvement" from the previous rate of 40%, any number above 0% should be considered unacceptable.
The President is charged with protecting the American people, but has also taken it upon himself to reform the way the world looks at America. The President has undoubtedly inherited a role in a world that is much more dangerous than he could possibly imagine.
Stopping would-be terrorists should be a priority. But when innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire, is that a casualty of war America should be willing to accept?
Inside Obama’s War on Terrorism | New York Times