As a blogger, I'm about as aware of my limitations as I could ever hope to be. I just have deep feelings about certain things, and I get that that my typing about them isn't a whole lot more than a message in a bottle. I've been chewing over President Obama's speech from the other day because it expresses, as near as I can tell, an intent to break with the big, primal error of the War on Terror: treating it like a war on terror. The decision to fight terrorism and terrorists any time and any place was perhaps the fuzziest notion imaginable. It was a scattershot reaction born out of fear from people who seemed to have realized all at once that the world is a dangerous place and wanted to wage war on all of the danger--even if that meant turning the world into a battlefield. It was a reaction to stateless violence that borrowed from the worst of wars between known quantities. As a result, it entered a kind of unknown territory regarding odd concepts like "enemy combatants" and all that. There is no rank or serial number for these "enemies". They are, basically, criminals of a particular class.
If we took prisoners of soldiers on behalf of an army of a given state, there is absolutely codification of how they are to be treated, and it would be hard not to send them back to their own nations once hostilities had ended. The prisoners at GTMO aren't like that. (For that matter, our "hostilities" aren't like that either--with nations or with possibility of being "ended".) Their home countries may not want them, or might want them and mean to do rather bad things to them. If they were prisoners due to identifiable crimes of the conventional sort, would could try and sentence them through simple due process according to the way we would any prisoner charged with a crime. These people aren't really that, either. In some cases, these prisoners aren't charges with anything in particular because we don't really have straight stories on why they are all there (although that link is four years old, I would wager that it's still true if they haven't tried to try some of them--and I really don't have a lot of patience for the idea that someone who has not had contact with the outside world for 5-10 years still can produce actionable intelligence.)
I think there is good reason to consider this monumental legal cock-up that has put these people into a living limbo the fault of the previous administration and their half-baked philosophy about ends and means. It is quite definitely a problem the Obama Administration knew about going in, and one that the current players had years before taking office to think about. I can easily place some blame on the political cowardice of our congresscritters, who have given in to a theory of the particular, almost "superinhumanity" conferred upon those who have been labelled "terrorists" and have preferred to keep these people in lockdown rather than have to juggle a hot potato while the "The only good Muslim..." crowd fires arrows at it. But I would far rather feel like I had some guarantee that the Obama Administration had a solution in the pipeline.
If they must be the only grownups, then fuck it. It is up to them to figure out what the grownup thing is.
The repeal of the AUMF, however is putting the primal error back in the hands of the same sort of moral jerkoffs who failed to restrain the GWOT in the first damn place. It's asking them to please not let President Obama be C-in-C of a limitless war so he doesn't have to also have limitless responsibility for it. How do you make yourself have less power so you aren't obliged to use it, whilst still having room to do what absolutely must be done in a case where acting prevents greater harm?
I'm not saying I have the ideal plan--although I think, unlike any thing congress has had fuck-all success at doing, maybe political pressure to do right on this could be borne. If only we had activists who had good aim. And arguments that didn't sound like "Wharrrgarble!" And more like--"This isn't helping". And "This is actively causing harm".
Regarding drones, I think the same bind is in place. We need to work out a lawful solution. The status quo has been lazy and not-brave, regardless of how "successful" at bagging al-Qaida it has been--and its ease of use has lots to do with how neatly it avoids all the legal wrangle. That avoidance needs to stop. We need to treat "terrorists" like grubby-ass criminals, and their groups like gangs. We need to dispell some of the myths that make a GTMO possible, or drones a preventive tool. I hate to say that's a bully-pulpit job. But it's Obama's second-term, so what else has he got it for?