But a more overarching point: When Obama excoriated Bush for offering a “false choice between our safety and our ideals,” he was referring to the Bush wartime preference for executive processes over judicial ones. The Times well knows this, because it was leading the Obama cheering section. In what now passes for “our ideals,” however, Obama is not just unilateral judge and jury; he is executioner, as well. Bush was convinced the war model was necessary to protect the nation, but he left the war-fighting to the professionals. Obama, by contrast” is the “liberal law professor” who “insist[s] 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.”
Not to worry about this seeming contradiction, though. The doctrinaire secularists at the Times want to assure you that The One even transcends what up until five minutes ago was the essential “wall of separation” between church and state. You see, our current commander-in-chief, that erudite protege of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a sharp departure from the Bible-thumping rube who last held the job. Obama is “a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” who is determined “to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.”
What Obama, or, for that matter, the Times, actually grasps about Christian just war theory is unclear. (If you actually want to know what it is, a few words from George Weigel are a better expenditure of your time than a few thousand words from folks who find virtue in not being “carried away by [their] own rhetoric.”) But we do learn that Obama-style “just war theory” bears a striking resemblance to Obama-style “pragmatism” — which somehow always manages to get to the result Obama finds politically expedient.
So we discover that Obama applies a strict moral imperative in his judicious application of just war drone-killing … except when he doesn’t. The target must be an imminent threat to the United States … except when he isn’t. There must be a “‘near certainty’ of no innocents being killed” … except when there isn’t. The Times concedes, for example, that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud ”did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing”: he was not a threat to the United States and, when located by the CIA, he was surrounded by innocents — staying with his wife at his in-laws’ home. But, hey, “Pakistani officials wanted him dead.” Obama rationalized that the drone program was necessary and the “drone program rested on [the Pakistanis'] tacit approval.” And, yes, killing Mehsud with a missile would necessarily entail killing those in his company, but them’s the breaks. The don gave the order.
And on it goes, at times sadly hilariously. The Times, for example, notes that “the president’s resolve” was “stiffened” by a “series of plots” that included “the killling of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam.” The Times does not note that, with this one passing reference tying Major Nidal Hasan’s jihadist rampage to Islamic supremacist ideology, the Gray Lady has surpassed the Pentagon in explaining what happened at Fort Hood. Applying the Obama-imposed conscious avoidance mandate, the armed forces did not refer to Islam or jihad in their 75-page report on the massacre, which the administration prefers to frame as a case of “workplace violence.”
In the main, though, the Times report is a study in the Left’s self-absorption. When modern progressives are out of power, warfare is unnecessary — a simplistic, “might makes right” resort to force when the Left’s brand of nuanced diplomacy would have done the trick. Reasonable suspicion is never enough: no one is to be assumed an enemy of the United States absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that will stand up in court; and if a Republican president resists the “transparency” of judicial review, or resorts to measures like military detention or immigration-law deportation in order to protect its intelligence secrets from exposure, it is chipping away at the very foundations of constitutional governance, such that the Republican administration should be understood as more of a threat to America than the terrorists. Only when the Left is in power does war become necessary, as well as excruciatingly complex and difficult. Only then must we learn to be understanding when irresponsible political rhetoric crashes into hostile reality, and when moral lines in the sand are constantly crossed and haphazardly redrawn … only to be crossed yet again.
This would all be easier to swallow if the evolution came with an apology. But it is packaged in the same smarm as original antiwar, anti-Bush indictment: the more events reveal Obama’s predispositions to be half-baked, inept, and unrealistic, the more you are supposed to admire his savvy pragmatism in not merely abandoning them but pretending he never really held them in the first place — while the courtiers applaud.