Takeaways from a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Obama's Terror Strategy

A NYT magazine cover story is published two weeks early to shed light on Obama's approach to counterterrorism

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Driven by crescendoing debate over the failed Christmas Day bombing and Obama's anti-terror tactics, The New York Times has thrown up a two-week early preview of its magazine cover story--"Inside Obama's War on Terrorism." Here are the some of the takeaways as online heavyweights digest Peter Baker's piece:

  • Obama Thinks Cairo Was That Important? The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner is perturbed by the idea that President Obama considers his June speech in Cairo one of the most important anti-terrorism steps of the past year: "Really?" asks Chotiner. "This is called putting too much faith in the power of your own words."
  • Thanks A Lot, Conservatives Baker writes of several former Bush officials who are "for the most part ... comfortable with Obama's policies," but "worried they would draw the ire of Cheney's circle" if they admitted this. Liberals such as Steve Benen and Matthew Yglesias are irritated: "It's really staggering what this says about the ethical caliber of the people we're talking about," writes Yglesias. "These are the toughest issues out there. Obama is, they think, doing the right thing. But some of them don't want to say he's doing the right thing because that might make Dick Cheney mad and they're timid, gutless careerists?" Benen is similarly displeased.
  • Give Some Credit--'Atmospherics' Matter Kevin Drum also latches onto the section describing Bush-Obama similarities on terror. He thinks the notion rings true, and would like to see "a little more in the way of concrete changes." Still, he thinks some of the experts Baker quotes undervalue the "atmospheric" changes of the new administration: "the fight against terrorism is very largely one of moderating the conditions that allow groups like al-Qaeda to recruit and function in the first place. Technically, it might not matter whether we keep terror suspects in Guantanamo or Illinois, but if closing Gitmo deprives Osama bin Laden of a rallying point for his troops then it's worth a thousand drone attacks in the hinterlands of Afghanistan."
  • Does Obama Get It? National Review's Jim Geraghty wonders how the president could, after the terrorist threat on Inauguration Day Baker reports, continue "sending captured al-Qaeda back to Yemen ... give KSM a trial in New York City," and ban "physical force in interrogations."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.