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Get Used to an Exceptional President and an Unexceptional Country


That’s the current Obama-administration message.

I suppose that in World War II or Korea, the U.S. could have captured non-uniformed infiltrators, shipped them to a POW camp, dithered over how to handle them, and then sent them back to the U.S. for civilian trials, as if they were U.S. citizens, with full legal rights, facing criminal charges of the sort brought against Americans.  

But with the upcoming terrorist trials in New York, we have crossed the Rubicon, and lots of eerie questions will arise. Can those attacked or wounded by Predator drones sue in U.S. courts for America’s judge/jury/executioner treatment of them? The next time we catch a terrorist blowing up a building in Kabul, should we read him his Miranda rights, videotape his testimony, offer him a lawyer, and send him to the U.S.? Or should we wink and nod and turn him over to the Afghans, with the understanding that our post-modern justice system is so absurd that we would rather informally rely on others’ pre-modern way of doing business? (Is that why Obama kept renditions — because the more we become utopian and loudly perfectionist, the more we will need others to do our dirty work?)

Why the assumption that KSM and others will be found guilty? What if one or two sympathetic souls on the jury nullify (as in the O.J. Simpson case) the evidence? If KSM et al. are found innocent, will we connive to keep them in custody anyway? Can KSM give the jury the names of those who hurt him in Guantanamo? Did Mohamed Atta go a little too far in acting out his mere “suggestion” to take down U.S. high-rises? Did KSM face life-changing bias and hurtful discrimination while a student in North Carolina?

Once you turn war into a legal tussle, every military act attracts dozens of second-guessers — as if in the cold sobriety of peace, safety, and security, those with law degrees can post facto pick apart the acts of younger fighters amid the chaos, mayhem, and danger of war.

There is a larger issue here: Obama’s image is at odds with America’s self-interest. The civilian trials, loud promises to close Guantanamo, and trashing (if only rhetorically) of Bush’s anti-terrorism protocols apparently reflect well on Obama overseas, but they don’t enhance our security. 

We saw all that with his reset-button/apology tour, and the old tropes that he was only a lad when America acted badly. More recently, his not showing up at Berlin hurts us; using a video link instead to talk about his own landmark presidency merely enhances Obama. Ditto his “first Pacific president” remark. Even the trivial incidents of bowing to Saudi royals and the Japanese emperor in a way other heads of state do not reflect Obama’s image of himself as the first post-national global citizen, rather than the commander in chief of the U.S.

After another year of all this apologizing, revisionism, ahistoricism, and separation of Obama the Nobel Prize winner from Obama the U.S. president, no one will quite remember that it was the Chinese and Russians who butchered millions of their own and threatened the free world during the Cold War, or that from the Middle East we got international terrorism, crippling oil boycotts, and energy cartels, or that Reagan helped crash the Soviet Union, or that the Japanese started WWII at Pearl Harbor.

Yet, given our growing mega-deficits, sliding dollar, mounting debt, spiking unemployment, burgeoning trade deficits, and government takeovers, bowing to foreign dignitaries will soon be, not a sign of Obama’s transnationalism, but an obsequious and accurate reflection of our genuine inferiority.


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