Two faces of the same coin

I started my news day, as per usual, by clicking over to WaPo immediately upon arrival at my office. I don’t know if the print version reflects this, but one of the headlines on the front page was an analysis piece entitled, “War on Terror Comes to an End.” That, my friends (oh, no, I sound like John McCain), would indeed have been news to me. Only upon clicking the link does one see that the full title was referencing Bush’s version of it, if you will. All in all, it’s a bit of a fluff piece recounting facts that would not be news to anyone who has paid attention at all in the last couple years and arguing the change in administration marks a departure from all that has come before.

After perusing the WaPo soliloquy to the sea change afoot on that front (for, “sea change”, read: closing the public relations disaster that was Gitmo sometime in the future after an alternative approach can be implemented and officially banning practices that the intel/military community had already moved away from in light of public exposure a couple years ago), I then clicked over to NYT and came upon this front page article. 

If you’re like me and hate clicking links, I give you this from the opening paragraph…

“The emergence of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.”

I know, reflexively, the executive orders he has signed surrounding Gitmo, interrogation techniques, etc., play well for the liberal base of the party. Beyond the public relations impact though, which I acknowledge can be very important in diplomacy, there’s little substance there. Nothing has changed in terms of the global challenges we are facing. All the complicated questions surrounding how we address those issues (e.g. what to do with the people at Gitmo?) are still there. Obama acknowledged as much in his inaugural address.

Although I think it’s pretty refreshingly awesome that we will now have a team in place at the highest levels that recognizes the role of diplomacy and all the things inherent to that, I am kind of surprised at all the hype surrounding these initial executive orders. One would almost think the “war,” as it were, had actually ended (oh, WaPo, how that abbreviated title amused me this morning). This marks a new chapter, undoubtedly, but it remains to be seen how much will substantively change in approaching current and potential realities facing  U.S. foreign policy.

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