Former vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday called last week’s CIA drone strike against al-Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki a validation of the George W. Bush administration’s terrorist-fighting strategy, and said that President Obama should apologize for his past criticism of those policies.
Cheney endorsed the killing of Awlaki as “justified,” despite Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship, and suggested that the Obama White House was being hypocritical when it approved a deadly strike against the New Mexico-born Awlaki while condemning Bush’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation methods of al-Qaeda prisoners.
Fortunately for our security, President Obama has already shifted from the campaign rhetoric of Senator Obama. Back then he was able to say whatever he needed to excite his base: renditions will end, lobbyists will be out, the cloak of secrecy will be pulled off, our troops will be rescued from unjust wars, the oceans will lower and the planet will heal. First, during this term – his first position as an executive – he has learned that pontificating is not governing and resonating does not trump poor performance. Second, such grandstanding is not as easy when actually faced with implementing those decisions. Renditions sound bad, but if they keep us safe we might be better off with them. He didn’t like the Iraq war, but is it worth it to remove the troops prematurely and risk losing the tenable progress we have? Those are easy campaign points for a candidate, but difficult decisions for an executive. So Gitmo stays open, renditions continue, the troops leave Iraq on Bush’s timeline, Afghanistan is escalated, drone strikes increase, and incursions in Pakistan begin. Gone is the belief that all Bush did was both counterproductive and against our ideals. Gone is the belief that our security can be improved using only measures with unanimous public support and UN approval. We all should recognize the ugly trade-offs security entails. This is not to excuse all of Bush’s policies, or to argue that anything goes in defense and diplomacy. It is to say that our security and ideals often conflict, and good people from both parties will come done on different sides. Yes, Obama also believes in the “dark side.”