General(ly) Speaking: How We Fight


The first day after inauguration, President Obama reversed two Bush policies: by signing two executive orders he made it easier to access Presidential records and he strengthened the ethics commitment to be made by personnel of the Executive office.  The next day – clearly, continuing his stated priority to improve the integrity of the White House – he signed three more executive orders -- again, in opposition to the policies of his predecessor.  Set aside the financial meltdown we are enduring, the threat of Islamic terrorists is arguably the biggest threat facing our nation and Obama made it clear that day that he was changing the course of action.  The three executive orders he signed on January 22nd call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay within a year, the end of the CIA’s use of secret prisons, and an end of our military’s use of torture.

Here is the New York Times report about the three new executive orders .  And if you think you can understand the legalese of the actual orders and want to go straight to the source, they are posted here on the White House web site.

Brigadier General James P. Cullen was one of the forty-plus military generals who attended the signing ceremony that day, a sign of military support for the change in strategy.  His op/ed is well worth a read.  He’s not a peacenik – and he makes a strong case for supporting the new policies.

The central front in our battle with Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A report out today indicates that civilian deaths in Afghanistan were up forty-percent (2,118 total) last year (compared to 1,523 in 2007). On Monday, leaders in Pakistan struck a deal with the Taliban to allow the reign of Shariah law in a region of the country, signaling the growing strength of the militant Islamic group.  President Obama is likely to double the troop size in Afghanistan. 

Seven and a half years after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the policies President Bush adopted, it seems we are no closer to resolving the international conflict with terrorists.  We can only hope Obama’s new policies – time-tested policies, as Brigadier General Cullen points out – finally can help turn things around.  We shall see.