A “War on Terror” by any other name… What did Obama change?
Barack Obama came into office promising a major departure from the policies of his predecessor regarding the so-called Global War on Terror. This paper compares the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations on four issues: 1) treatment of prisoners, particularly indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay and trial by military commissions; 2) kidnapping, “extraordinary rendition,” and torture of terrorist suspects; 3) targeted killings by unpiloted aerial vehicles or “drones;” and 4) preventive wars and “humanitarian interventions.” It considers four main indicators of change: 1) whether the Obama administration continued existing policies or stopped them; 2) whether it publicly stigmatized illegal practices or remained silent; 3) whether or not it investigated crimes of Bush officials and punished the perpetrators; and 4) whether the Obama administration expanded the practices of its predecessors. The fourth indicator is most relevant to the topic of drone attacks, where the administration extended the practice of targeting killing by drones in number, frequency, space, and by category of target beyond what the Bush administration did. The paper concludes with brief speculation about the impact of the Obama administration’s policies – and other factors -- on the evolution of legal and ethical norms governing the struggle against terrorism.
Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies
Obama; Terrorism; War on Terror; Bush; Guantanomo Bay; Drones; Humanitarian Intervention