As drone attacks and the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) come under fire by Republicans and Democrats alike for undermining and eroding civil liberties, President Obama is unsurprisingly facing backlash for his national security policy, which happens to be even more extreme and conservative than that of former President George W. Bush. In fact, when it comes to national security policy, President Obama’s first and second terms have essentially been Bush’s third and fourth.
Domestically, President Obama has made strides in pursuing a liberal policy when it comes to issues such as repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, endorsing same-sex marriage, and passing health care reform. But Obama’s extreme anti-terror tactics that have dominated both his foreign policy and national security policy have not followed the same pattern of liberal policy. In fact, they have shown him to be perhaps an even greater neocon than most Republicans.
A prime example of this is the NDAA, a piece of legislation that essentially grants the president the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge. This followed in suit with Obama’s four-year extension of the Patriot Act in 2011, continuing the post-9/11 powers to search records and conduct wiretaps and surveillance on civilians with no confirmed ties to terrorism in pursuit of terrorists. (Surprisingly, the only true voice of dissent against extending the legislation was Republican senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who saw it as a gross abuse of privacy rights.)
Obama also inherited two illegal and largely undeclared wars when he came into power – Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he withdrew US troops from Iraq, Obama has driven further and further in to Afghanistan over the years despite promising a “new” Afghanistan policy weeks after he first took office. The new policy looked a lot like the old one, resulting in a surge of US troops in the country, followed by larger surges in 2009 and 2010. Although he has now reduced the number of troops, there are no plans for a full withdrawal until well past 2014.
Obama also led America into Libya, with zero regard for congressional approval, and in toppling Qaddafi – who, by the way, was no threat to nor an enemy of the US and had even given up his WMDs in 2003 following pressure from the Bush administration – opened up the Southern border of Libya as a free-for-all for terrorist groups, essentially transforming the region into a “Jihadist Camp” for the radical militants. Obama’s enthusiasm for drone strikes – and complete disregard to the American tradition of due process – in Yemen and Pakistan, among many other countries, has also proven to be ineffective towards the anti-terrorism goal, breeding radicals instead of decimating them.
President Obama, despite all of his rosy words, has been tougher on immigrants in the US than President Bush ever was. Since taking office, Obama has removed 1.4 million people during his first 42 months in office. Comparatively, President Obama has removed an average of 32,886 immigrants a month while President Bush averaged around 20,964. President Clinton lags far behind with just 9,059 per month.
A group known as American Principles in Action even ran an ad titled “Deporter-In-Chief” targeted at Hispanic voters during the 2012 election, saying, “Don’t be fooled by President Obama’s words … he’s not committed to immigrants. He only wants our vote.”
Lastly, despite his abundance of promises to shut down Guantanamo Bay, the detention center still remains open and the administration has kept all information regarding the center, infamous for its abuses of human rights, even more hushed than the Bush administration did.
For all of his liberal stances at home, Obama has proven to be worse than most neocons – and far worse than his predecessor, Bush – when it comes to national security and foreign policy.