Opinion

Is Obama weak on defense?

Given the increase in troops in Afghanistan, the extension of the Patriot Act, the continuation of Robert Gates’ stint as defense secretary, the recent success in capturing senior Al Qaeda operatives, and the increase in effective drone attacks in Pakistan, why are so many still worried that our new president may be weak on defense?

Is it because he made it a priority to close the Guantanamo military prison during his first few days in office before he had a plan to deal with the consequences of that decision? Didn’t we buy the notion that Guantanamo has been a key recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists? Don’t we all believe that as soon as we close Guantanamo that Al Qaeda will be severely weakened or perhaps forced to disband?

Did many citizens find Obama’s rationale for abandoning the Eastern European missile defense shield to be valid? Was this a sound strategic military move or did we just abandon Poland and the Czech Republic in an attempt to appease the Russians?

Many liberals see waterboarding, which causes no permanent damage to the prisoner, as the moral equivalent of torture. Do most of us agree with this assessment, or are everyday Americans afraid there will be no Jack Bauer to help us when push comes to shove?

Is the president getting criticism for his attorney general’s (AG) decision to treat foreign terrorists as common criminals (by indicting them and trying them in civilian court as opposed to military tribunals)? Was it only the potential cost and disruption of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City that concerned the general public, or was it the whole notion of giving these savage barbarians the rights (to an attorney, to remain silent, etc.) of American citizens?

American citizens want to be fair and humane, but they also want justice, proportionate punishment, and reliable protection from radicals of all kinds. The president and his AG say they want the same, so why do so many Americans not believe them? Is all of the criticism and suspicion coming only from right-wing political opponents? It does not appear so. How is it that the treatment of terrorists has become a political issue?

It probably did not help when the president called the Fort Hood mass murder an “isolated incident” in spite of all the facts to the contrary. Plus, both the president and AG Holder seemed reluctant to acknowledge that U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused perpetrator, was an American-born Muslim of Jordanian descent with a history of anti-American sentiments.

Were these attitudes, mistakes, and reluctances just an attempt to protect innocent American Muslims, or did they reflect a mindset that thinks of terrorists as just common criminals? Is the general public concerned that Attorney General Holder hired several government attorneys at the Department of Justice who have a history of defending terrorists and/or of opining that terrorists have citizen-like rights?

Perhaps everyday Americans understand the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.” Americans may not be as brutally direct as Winston Churchill, but most are not willing to give terrorists the rights that legitimate POWs deserve. Most Americans believe that even POW rights need to be earned by following certain codes of conduct.