There is a piece in the NY Times today about Obama’s wartime activities by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, which details the process by which President Obama has targeted individuals for assassination. A few points made in the article deserve comment, such as this analysis near the top of the article, in which the authors allege that Obama’s decision making has “baffled” people on both sides of the aisle:
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”
Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.
In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.
It’s really not all that baffling. Obama, as a liberal Democrat with, what I would term, anti-American/imperial views stemming from a very leftists ideology, opposes, on a theoretical basis, the dominance of America in the world. However, Obama as the man who “think[s] that [he is] a better speechwriter than [his] speechwriters…. know[s] more about policies on any particular issue than [his] policy directors… [and] think[s] [he’s] a better political director than [his] political director” is fully in favor of unilateral decision making. It is, unequivocally, the hubris of the individual believing he is better than the system and more important than the principle. Rules restricting executive authority were well and good for George W. Bush (who declined, for instance, to recess appoint individuals during pro-forma Senate sessions on the grounds that he lacked the authority to do so) because he was “bad,” while such rules should not apply to Obama because he is “good.”