Magazine | June 23, 2014, Issue

Memorandum

CONFIDENTIAL

TO: POTUS

FROM: Strategy

RE: Rebranding as “Promise Keeper”

Sir:

We’ve spent the past few cycles seeing where we are in re: our rebranding efforts, and we think we’re making great progress.

In the past few days, we’ve seen a shift in national attitudes from, “The president broke his promise when he said ‘If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan’” to “The president kept his promise to release all suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.”

This is terrific news! Everyone at the Strategy Shop couldn’t be happier. We feel that a concentrated strategy to release as many “Gitmo” detainees as possible will help mitigate — and even erase — any lingering impression among the voters that the Obama administration cannot be trusted. We may have broken a promise when it comes to people’s health insurance, but we’re keeping one in re: releasing terrorists.

There are approximately 149 detainees left in custody, and that gives us a stretch-goal to close out 2014 with an entirely empty facility in Cuba, save the awkward possibility that recently traded prisoner Bowe Bergdahl will end up, after his court- martial for desertion and treason, in that same facility. But that falls in the category of cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it.

Of the 149 remaining, we assess the value of 25–30 of them as “Very High to High,” due to their past employment as al-Qaeda field commanders in North Africa and recruiters in Algeria, Yemen, and the Af–Pak region. The largest tranche of detainees comes under the heading of “Moderate Value,” and that numbers about 100.

The issue at hand, sir, is what to trade these detainees for. Unfortunately, due to the professionalism and bravery of our armed forces, we don’t have any more “military” cards to trade, whether in the AWOL ranks or “treason” classification.

On the other hand, we’ve made a pretty exhaustive count of our other “assets” in the region, and a couple of them seem promising in terms of trading value for detained terrorists.

In 2011, three Philosophy of French Literature majors from Brown University slipped into Afghanistan on a “personal witness for peace.” They were quickly taken prisoner by Taliban forces and have not been heard from since, save for a few odd and underlit YouTube videos in which they denounce the American-military presence in the region and claim to have converted to Islam. These videos can easily be removed quietly from YouTube servers in the coming weeks if necessary. They are mostly inconclusive and irrelevant, except for the fact that the former students now speak almost flawless Pashto.

In early 2012, a delegation from an ad hoc group calling itself “Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered, Questioning, Bisexual, and Queer Activists for Reconciliation” entered the unsecured zone around Kandahar. Radio-communication intercepts indicate that they are being held in some kind of unclear status. These are remote locations, many miles from villages and other social situations. We don’t know much about their current mindset, though experts surmise that the “Questioning” members of the delegation are no longer in that category.

It’s unlikely that we’ll get the kind of terrific photo-op we got with Sargeant Bergdahl’s parents — for example, the parents of all three Brown University undergraduates seem relieved not to have been paying Brown tuition for the past three years — but we’re still confident that we can trade these 25–30 “High Value” detainees for the Brown University French majors with little difficulty. According to our Qatari intermediaries, the Taliban authorities would like to be rid of them.

We suggest throwing in the 15–20 detainees rated “Low Value” as a bonus, to show our goodwill and commitment. (This category of detainee is hard to assess, risk-wise. They are mostly suicide bombers and single-victim murderers, and as such unlikely to make headlines for the duration of your time in office.)

That leaves roughly 100 “Moderate Value” detainees — these are mostly technicians, bomb-builders, experts of this kind — who still need to be released.

Unfortunately, we’ve run out of American deserters and college students with which to make an effective — and politically acceptable — trade.

To that end, the Strategy Shop suggests that we accept, in exchange, colorful Afghan handicrafts — to include, but not to be limited to, the eponymous “Afghan” blankets so popular with American collectors and craft enthusiasts on websites such as Etsy.com. The optics of this are, obviously, excellent. As you know, women are the prime creators of these kinds of craft objects, so there’s a way to make this less about “Obama Lets Terrorist Masterminds Go Free” and more about “Republicans Hate Afghan Women.”

We’re right now brainstorming on the appropriate Twitter hashtag to describe this kind of policy — something along the lines of #CraftersForDetainees or #FullHeartsEmptyGitmo — but the key is to tie it all in with the overarching concept of a president who keeps his promises, especially in regard to freeing suspected terrorists.

Let’s discuss as soon as possible. Would like to get this project moving before the midterms.

Rob Long — Rob Long, Hollywood writer and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for the TV show Cheers. He is a regular writer for National Review, Newsweek International, and the Los ...

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Right Reforms

Liberals are taking the publication of a new collection of essays by conservatives as an occasion to diagnose what ails the Right. The favor should be returned. Liberalism’s reaction to ...
Politics & Policy

#NoNotMe

Collective guilt is en vogue at the moment, the ever-supple concepts of “privilege,” “rape culture,” and “entitlement” having been gradually brought into the mainstream and then ruthlessly applied to anything ...
Politics & Policy

A Concert of Democracies

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing pressure on Ukraine reveal more than the Obama administration’s national-security paralysis and a lack of strategic vision. Like the collapse of the League of ...

Features

Politics & Policy

Fight the Dragon

The standard economic model treats free trade as obviously positive, creating prosperity for all participants. Conservatives, and most neoliberals, have embraced that view and consistently press for further liberalization while ...
Politics & Policy

Victus

There were a few plying the dark arts of lobbying in Washington before it, but Patton Boggs was in some ways the original modern lobbyist shop. A D.C. law firm ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Dysfunctional Government

This book speaks directly to the malaise that has accompanied Barack Obama’s second term in office. “The West,” write John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, “has lost confidence in the way ...
Politics & Policy

High Stakes

In October 1986, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in Iceland for what were supposed to be brief working discussions to prepare for a summit later ...
Politics & Policy

The Real Tinsel

The story can now be told. Sort of. Almost 1 million years ago, when then-president George H. W. Bush was running for a second term, his running mate, Dan Quayle, gave ...
Politics & Policy

Monster Mash

Sometimes your feelings about a two-hour movie can be summed up by the way you react to a single fleeting scene. In the latest incarnation of Godzilla, that moment arrived ...
Country Life

Homecoming

As a weekender, I do not subscribe to any of the daily newspapers upstate, so I had no advance notice of Sergeant Shawn Farrell’s homecoming, which happened on a Wednesday. ...

Sections

Athwart

Argument of the Week

It would appear that writers for Slate wake, stretch, yawn, and think: What comfortable, familiar, harmless aspect of life can we destroy today? What means of arranging society, accumulated over ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

OVERHEARD “Just think about her name and hit ‘delete.’” I want to interrupt, say, “Don’t believe the steps could be so simple and complete. Love rifles through your trash bin to retrieve each image that ...
Happy Warrior

Personal Library

Not long ago, I popped into a Salvation Army store in suburban Maryland to check out the used-book section. I’d unearthed plenty of gems in similar places, so it wasn’t ...
Politics & Policy

Letters

Is Causation Magical? While I share David Pryce-Jones’s aversion to Gabriel García Márquez’s unforgivable political affiliations and the undue accolades he received in eulogy, I’m not certain that Mr. Pryce-Jones’s article ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Hillary Clinton has a new book out. At this point what difference does it make? ‐ President Obama gave a commencement address at West Point, which he meant as a ...
The Long View

Memorandum

CONFIDENTIAL TO: POTUS FROM: Strategy RE: Rebranding as “Promise Keeper” Sir: We’ve spent the past few cycles seeing where we are in re: our rebranding efforts, and we think we’re making great progress. In the past ...

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More