President Obama’s backtracking on his decisions to close Guantanamo Bay and release photographs which show abuse of prisoners by the United States is very positive. It means that he is beginning to see in practical terms that national security comes first and foremost and that it must take precedence over political or ideological considerations. It also means that he is beginning to understand the true nature of the difficulties President Bush had to deal with and that intractable problems, like what to actually do with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay if you really close the place, don’t lend themselves to simple, facile solutions that are nothing more than soundbites in disguise. It must have been hard to backtrack because of the criticism it will engender and the crow he will have to eat but he did so for the greater good and should be commended for it.
Hopefully he will come to his senses about other aspects of the war on terror and the conflict in the Middle East as well. this is especially important on the eve of his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama must understand that a strong, secure Israel is in America’s best security interests and that an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons most certainly is not. He must also understand that any waffling or equivocating on either or both of these severely damages U.S. security whereas security will be enhanced if he makes sure that Iran believes that possessing nuclear weapons is very undesirable from his point of view and that no options to prevent this are off the table, including military ones.
President Obama has shown that he is willing and able to alter course in the face of realpolitic. This is most encouraging, particularly since much of what he has said and done on the national security/foreign policy front has made many countries around the world question just how deep America’s commitment to them really is and whether or not the United States would defend them or act preemptively if push came to shove. How he acts after his meeting with Netanyahu will send a very strong message to friend and foe alike. Let’s hope it’s the right one.