No, He Won't... End the 'Global War on Terror'

Barack Obama may not have come into
office pledging to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, but
he did pledge one thing: to close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo within a
year. That couldn't have been clearer. And as I wrote back then, it
was also a reasonable basis on which to judge whether a democratic
administration could do anything significant to roll back our Bush-created
Homeland Security Nation and alter American policy
abroad.

Barack Obama may not have come into
office pledging to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, but
he did pledge one thing: to close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo within a
year. That couldn't have been clearer. And as I wrote back then, it
was also a reasonable basis on which to judge whether a democratic
administration could do anything significant to roll back our Bush-created
Homeland Security Nation and alter American policy
abroad.

Now, we have our answer -- and it
couldn't be clearer either. No, he can't. Or
won't.

Just last week, under the dreary
headline
"Closing Guantanamo
Fades as a Priority," Charlie Savage reported in my hometown paper that "the
Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantanamo prison,
making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it
before his term ends in 2013." Admittedly, it would never have been an
easy thing to do, not given domestic politics and the outsized fear of terrorism
that goes with it. It would, however, have been a lot easier than sweeping
away much of the rest of the legacy of the Bush administration: the Global War
on Terror, the Department of Homeland Security, the Fear Inc. that now rules our lives and somehow
managed to convince us, even with unemployment through the roof and the Gulf of
Mexico turning into a dead sea, that the main danger to this country is
"terrorism."

As it happens, the only thing the Obama
administration seems to have swept away was the name, Global War on Terror. The war itself, like
Guantanamo, has proven as unstaunchable as that
gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. However
named, that "war," the Afghan war, and the CIA's drone war in the Pakistani borderlands have all
expanded, while the war in -- or at least occupation of -- Iraq has been
shrinking ever so slowly on a schedule the Bush administration set up before it
left office.

Perhaps none of this is surprising,
not with a holdover Secretary of Defense from the
end of the Bush administration, the hawkish Hillary Clinton as secretary of
state, and a national security advisor who was a friend of John McCain's, and
might as easily have been chosen by him for the same post (had he won in
2008). Minus a few speeches and a friendlier attitude toward
Russia, it's increasingly hard to
tell the difference between Obama's imperial policy abroad and the Bush version
of the same.

Meanwhile, at home, we remain scared to
death by a fear machine that, 24/7, turns every inept doofus into public enemy number one and seems to create
new inept enemies by the week. Meanwhile, we throw billions a month into
our $281 billion Afghan war, the latest news from which is this: there are, according to
CIA director Leon Panetta, 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and,
according to Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism
Center, "more than 300" al-Qaeda leaders and operatives in the Pakistani tribal
areas. Less than 500 al-Qaeda members in one of the poorest, least
accessible places on the planet, that's what we're supposedly mustering our
might to fight. That's the "other
superpower" of 2010, the mortal enemy against whom we are willing to squander
our wealth, even as, at home, our country sags.

It's like one of those nightmares
where amorphous monsters chase you through the night. Too bad we can't
wake up.