We've long known that Barack Obama is a man for whom image is everything. His appearances are carefully scripted down to the last detail,from the backdrop behind him during speeches to the adoring crowds at the front nearest the podium. He is coiffed and elegant, married to his teleprompter and ever-conscious of every utterance he makes. Barack Obama is the nation's actor-in-chief -- playing the role of American idealist, a role he is certain that will make America (and himself) more popular in the eyes of the world. But will it make us safer? This is the key question, because it is now apparent that our national security policy is now based not on the hard tactics of counter-terrorism, but on our popularity. This is now clear after his recent "apology tour" through Europe, and his glad-handing of dictators at the Americas Summit last week, where he allowed the prestige of his office to be downgraded to the likes of Hugo Chavez. And now, with the release of the "torture memos" that detail Bush administration interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama has now made it clear that he'd rather be popular than be safe.
Barack Obama and his administration are now on a quest to show once and for all that America seeks redemption for past "sins" after 9/11 where (in the president's words) "we lost our moral way". In doing so, he has now unleashed the furor of the left and the partisan attack dogs in Congress, and you can expect endless hearings and show trials to bring former Bush administration officials to account for their crimes. And what crimes are these? Endeavoring to keep the nation safe after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on American soil that killed over 3,000 innocent Americans.
Some crime that is.
The decision to release these interrogation memos -- while leaving open the possibility of prosecuting the Bush administration lawyers who wrote them -- is based on a core belief that such actions before the court of world public opinion will make us safer. As Dorothy Rabinowitz points out today in the Wall Street Journal, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on last Sunday's "This Week" that the White House is being guided by "higher concerns" than whether or not our past interrogation techniques yielded important intelligence that saved American lives. Rather, we are seeking to elevate our image in the eyes of the world and improve our status with the terrorists who want to destroy us. As Rabinowitz says:
"This would undermine al Qaeda, Mr. Emanuel explained, because those interrogations of ours helped to enlist terrorists to their cause. All of which was why the publication of the memos -- news of which would presumably touch the hearts of militants around the world -- would make America safer."
Thus in Obama's world, some quid-pro-quo actually exists with terrorists who behead their captives and wantonly commit mass murder against innocent civilians. This is the "blowback" school of thought -- that we have brought terrorism upon ourselves because of our hubris, our aggressive nature, our imperialist foreign policy, or our willingness to use loud music and cold temperatures in questioning detainees we've captured on the battlefield. This is the idealism of the left -- and Obama has now taken American national security smack into the middle of it. If it makes you feel better to take some moral high ground on this issue, fine. But don't delude yourself into thinking that it makes us safer. Al Qaeda and its minions hated us before "enhanced interrogation" and will hate us long after we become more popular in the court of world public opinion.
As I have written many times before, Islamic fundamentalism is an ideology that seeks our total destruction so that a world Islamic order can be formed. It isn't a popularity contest -- it is a clash of civilizations and a battle for our very future. And even more importantly, it is a battle where our enemy preys on our every weakness -- like our belief that we can talk our way into some accommodation with them. You can bet that somewhere in a cave on the Af-Pak border, Osama Bin Laden is laughing out loud at his good fortune to now have Barack Obama in the White House. Bin Laden and his ilk know the folly of what we have now embarked on. While it may make us feel better to have our values front and center, it also makes us weaker. And we are more vulnerable because of it.
We are now officially in Wonderland, headed down the rabbit-hole into a world that is actually well-known to us. We saw it in the 199os when we treated terrorism as a law-enforcement issue. We saw it in the first WTC attack in 1993, the Kenyan Embassy bombings, the Khobar Towers attack and the bombing of the USS Cole. We saw it all during the Clinton years, when we were popular but also vulnerable. Well before the first use of "enhanced interrogation", our enemies were working to destroy us. We've seen this all before.
Through his looking glass, Barack Obama apparently believes that past is not prelude, choosing to bet our security that we can be both popular and safe.
In Wonderland, of course, anything is possible.