Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Afternoon

I've been imagining that my feeling that it would be best to close our extraordinary prison in Guantanamo Bay just reflects my profound ignorance of military and international security matters. Sure, it seems from my naive, uninformed viewpoint that, even assuming we put aside all questions about legality and just ruthlessly follow our national interests, Guantanamo's negative impact on our national values and international standing outweigh whatever advantage we get from keeping people we regard as terrorists or enemy combatants in a law-free, judge-proof, indefinite limbo. But what do I know? An important part of being a professor and a scholar is recognizing and admitting the limits of one's knowledge and information. I'm not in a good position to assess what Guantanamo is doing for us security-wise, and, for all I know, it really is helping a lot, maybe even so much that we should accept the negative consequences.

That's why I was so interested to see that Colin Powell says that if he were in charge he would close Guantanamo "this afternoon." Powell is in a position to weigh the costs and benefits of Guantanamo -- he's probably the most qualified person around. He's been a General, the National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State. If there's someone who's in a better position to assess how Guantanamo is helping and hurting us with regard to our military, national security, and diplomatic needs, and to weigh these all up against each other, I'd like to know who it is. And he says he would close Guantanamo because it has become a major problem in "the way the world perceives America."

So maybe the liberals are right after all. Getting your way internationally is not just a matter of flexing your military muscles in every super-macho way you want. Paying a little attention to diplomacy and international law actually helps too. It's not just me saying this, it's Colin Powell.

And while we're at it, here are a few other things the President could do this afternoon:

  • Fire Alberto Gonzales and install an Attorney General who will enforce the laws honestly and impartially.
  • Fire Lurita Doan and instruct all appointees who serve at his pleasure that government departments are not to be politicized.
  • Admit that if we knew then what we know now, we would not have invaded Iraq.
  • Apologize for his role in taking the nation into war based on incorrect information.
  • Say that, however mistaken going into Iraq may have been in the first place, we're there now and we have to deal with the situation, come up with a truly credible plan for making Iraq succeed in a plausible time frame even though it will require sacrifices, and then implement the plan.

I know it's a little late in the Bush presidency and people are saying he's in his lame duck period, but wouldn't it be quite a jump-start if he admitted his past errors, swept the slate clean, and tried to do the right thing from here on out?

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