Cliff May

Ted Rall is hopping mad. The syndicated columnist and president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is denouncing President Obama as "useless" and "dangerous," and he's demanding that Obama "step down now."

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Long afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome, Rall has his knickers in a knot now because he thinks Obama has a plan for "preventive detentions." He claims to have seen "reports in U.S. state-controlled media" saying so. While these reports imply that "Obama's shocking new policy would only apply to Islamic terrorists," Rall is certain that, in practice, "Obama wants to let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying off the street."

If you read the entirety of Rall's column -- and I don't recommend that unless your initials are G.W.B. in which case it may brighten your day -- you will eventually realize that Rall is using "preventive detentions" interchangeably with "prolonged detentions" - a somewhat different concept in reality, if not in Rall's fevered brain.

But this does illustrate something interesting: When it comes to national security - the set of policies intended to protect Americans from their enemies -- Obama has so far not been the president that many of his fans on the left had hoped and many of his critics on the right had feared.

As the Council on Foreign Relations' Max Boot, Harvard's Jack Goldsmith and others have noted, Obama is not abandoning what has been achieved -- at great cost -- in Iraq. He is increasing the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan. He appears to appreciate the high stakes in Pakistan. Now as in the Bush administration, Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno are commanding American troops in battle under the leadership of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Also consistent with the previous administration, Obama has retained such anti-terrorism tools as military commissions (with cosmetic modifications), renditions (begun during the Clinton era), and, yes, indefinite detentions of captured enemy combatants (to keep them from returning to the conflict -- standard practice during war time, now as in the past).

While still a senator running for president, Obama broke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted to restore to our intelligence agencies the authority to eavesdrop aggressively on terrorist suspects abroad. The Patriot Act - which tore down the wall separating the intelligence and law enforcement communities -- has not been repealed.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.