Shortly after last year’s election, I quoted something former Centcom Commander Tommy Franks said that gave me hope that President Obama would do a better job on the issue of the military and national security than what I had feared Candidate Obama would do.
Franks said, "As we have a new commander-in-chief, and as the new commander-in-chief comes to know and appreciate these men and women who serve, he too is a lifelong learner and I predict that some of his views will change as he comes to know the people in our military."
Last week when I heard of yet another change of Obama’s position on a matter of national security, I hoped that what Franks said was the reason behind it.
Obama’s most recent changes of position were recounted in an L.A.Times article by Christi Parsons and Janet Hook.
“In quick succession last week…Obama announced two major shifts on sensitive national security issues…he said he would oppose making the detainee pictures public -- a switch that could put him at odds with a federal judge who ordered them released. And he declared that the administration would stick with a modified version of the Bush administration's military tribunals for trying terrorism suspects; during the campaign he had promised to rely on federal courts and the traditional military justice system.”
This was not the first time President Obama changed his position on issues relating to national security. Many in his leftwing base are upset that he is not ruling out the practice of “extraordinary rendition” for which President Bush was very harshly criticized.
According to reports, what convinced President Obama to change course regarding the release of photos showing detainees being abused by some members of the U.S. military was a passionate plea from Army Gen. Ray Odierno. Odierno made the case that release of the pictures would be used to recruit terrorists, just as those from Abu Ghraib had been.
Obama had to already know that the release of the photos could result in the same fallout that followed the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. Did Odierno share additional information that was not previously known publicly? Were any of the other policy changes results of Obama having access to information that he did not previously have?
When I first heard that Obama had changed his mind about releasing the detainee torture photos, I thought it didn’t much matter why he had reversed course, since the outcome would be the same regardless of motivation. On second thought I realized that the reason does matter.