Yesterday, President Obama signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay by this time next year. As you might expect, that brought cheers from the MSM and exasperation from the right.
I’m not in either camp. In fact, I’m in my very own camp. I don’t think that Gitmo will close at all. I think that in about six months we’ll hear some vague noises from the Obama administration about security and legal issues and how the question is difficult and that we need to play it safe to keep us safe. The President will quietly sign another executive order to keep the camp open for a little while longer while they work through the legal complexities. We might read a brief story, buried in the politics section of most newspapers about another order keeping it open for even longer. In the end, nothing will have changed. Guantanamo Bay will keep processing prisoners, military tribunals will continue as they have, and nothing will have changed substantively at all.
Here’s why I think that.
It’s not tough to see, so long as you’re not looking through the wildly distorting lens of Bush Derangement Syndrome, that the last administration ran through a lot of options on detainees. They have been trying to send detainees back to their home countries for years without very much success. Either the home country, recognizing how dangerous the detainees are, refused to take them or some group here in the US blocked the transfer because the home country was a cesspool of cruelty. I’m sure that President Bush could have played hardball and sent them home no matter what but, believe it or not, his soft heart and good diplomatic sense made that impossible. He wasn’t about to send a detainee home to a place where he knew the man would be really tortured. And, he wasn’t going to antagonize allies like Britain, Canada, and Germany by putting their detainees on a plane and sending them home against the home country’s wishes.
The Bush administration considered housing the detainees on American soil, but soon found out that doing so would open up a Pandora’s Box of legal problems that would eventually bog down our criminal justice system and eventually lead to a security problem worse than having no detainees at all. That’s the worst answer possible and it doesn’t take a great legal mind to figure that out.
The other solution would be to simply stop taking detainees. When we find someone in the field, our soldiers would do what has been done in the past: hold a brief hearing and either let the detainee go or shoot him right there. Obviously, that wasn’t going to fly, which left us with Gutntanamo Bay.
It seems to me that the Obama administration is finding the clarity of sight that comes with the dissolution of ignorance. the more the learned about Gitmo, what was going on there, and what other options had been tried and discarded, the more they are seeing that Gitmo is the best solution to a bad problem. They are learning things they purposefully ignored during the campaign because if they had acted on what they could see, they would have lost the entire nutroot contingent. Obama needed the nutroots to keep him game against Hillary Clinton. Now that the election is won, he doesn’t need them nearly as much. He can also rely on their short attention spans and their intellectual inconsistency as he stealthily creeps to a position they would have pilloried him for taking six months ago.
My guess is that, slowly but surely, we’ll see Barack Obama slide into the position that the Bush administration held for years on Gitmo. It’s the only position he can take if he takes his job as Commander in Chief seriously. The other options have been explored deeply and have been found wanting. He’s seen reality and is proving smart enough to recognize it.