Obama's Foreign Policy
(c) Jennifer Kohnke
As one would expect from so eloquent a leader, President
The Russian government has sought to impede critical human rights reporting by imposing burdensome regulatory requirements. Obama responded by meeting with civil society leaders and stressing in a
Obama touched on the right points about the importance of respecting human rights when visiting
Even on counterterrorism -- the area where Obama's policies appeared at first to be farthest from Bush's -- the results are less than had been hoped. Obama ordered the CIA to abide by the military's stricter rules for interrogation and shut the secret detention facilities where terrorism suspects "disappeared" and were tortured, but he has refused to investigate -- let alone prosecute -- the senior officials who ordered torture or the government lawyers who provided thin legal justifications for it. It is not enough for a president to observe the law if he does not also defend the law by prosecuting those responsible for blatant breaches.
Similarly, Obama said he would close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, but it seems he may have meant only the physical facility, not the policies that it represents; he proposes to continue trying some suspects in military commissions that are slightly improved from those that Bush supported, but still substandard. In addition, the Obama administration has now indicated that some 47 suspects will continue to be subject to long-term detention without trial. Suspects held unjustly in Guantánamo or tried in military commissions are worth far more to terrorist recruiters than suspects who are released. It would be better to try them in regular federal courts, which have proved fully capable of handling these types of cases, than military commissions. Regular trials are most likely to produce results, the fairness of which no one could contest.
Obama recognizes the importance of redeeming America's reputation on human rights after the dark Bush years. But it will take more than impressive rhetoric to succeed. Words must be followed by deeds.
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- Europe's Chance to Punch Its Weight: New Treaty New Influence
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- Winning the War to Secure the Peace
- India's Rise, America's Interest
- Enemies Into Friends: How United States Can Court Its Adversaries
- Global Energy After The Economic Crisis
- From The Sun King to Karzai
- Israel and Palestine: An Interim Agreement
- Obama's Hesitant Embrace of Human Rights
- Warnings of Violence Ahead of Iraq's Election
- New Latin American Group Unlikely to Have Teeth
- A Bright Star on World Stage: But Obama's real challenge will be to show results
(C) 2010 Council on Foreign Relations, publisher of Foreign Affairs. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.