Some on the Left are making the argument that the Obama administration has achieved much tougher sanctions on Iran than did the Bush administration, and with the killing of bin Laden and the seven-fold increase in Predator attacks, represent an effective record in confronting terrorism — one not so acknowledged by either cynical or partisan conservatives.
I think there is one key component left out of this narrative. Conservatives mostly applaud these efforts and have offered no opposition to them. Indeed, the things they have in bipartisan fashion supported since 2009 have largely worked, and the things they opposed — the trial of KSM in New York, the closing of Guantanamo, ending some of the Bush-Cheney protocols from rendition to tribunals, trying CIA operatives, keeping silent about Iranian unrest while reaching out to the theocracy — would not have worked, as the about-face on these matters by the administration suggests. Much of the administration’s present antiterrorism policy and its maturing approach to Iran come despite, not because of, the past politicking of many now executing these measures.
So there is a sort of paradox here. Were Bush now in power, does anyone believe that many on the left, and perhaps most notably a Senator Obama (given his public statements from 2007 through 2008), would not be fiercely critical of ratcheting up pressure on Iran, of vastly expanding the Predator program, of keeping all the anti-terrorism measures, and even for ordering a hit — rather than a find-and-capture mission — on bin Laden? A Bush bombing Libya without consulting Congress would have renewed calls of impeachment.
One must in bipartisan fashion applaud the Obama administration when it successfully advances American interests, but that does not mean amnesia about the past when what is now customary was once cynically derided as either useless or unconstitutional.
And I fear the politics of anti-terror are not quite over, as securing the base becomes once more important to President Obama. Abruptly leaving Iraq and new efforts to close Guantanamo mirror 2008, after having been not-so-pressing issues during most of 2009–2011.