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El Pais, Spain

Obama, Minus Military

Translated By Natalie Legros

9 January 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)

Chuck Hagel's nomination to lead the Pentagon and John O. Brennan's to lead the CIA, both waiting to pass Congress' selection, are in line with the policy of safety followed by Barack Obama regarding security matters during his first term. But the second term need not be a supporter of the status quo. On the contrary, it offers the opportunity — in fact, it brings up the need — for some radical changes.

With Republican Hagel, after Robert Gates, Obama is looking to keep the bridges open with a party that he will need to govern because it dominates the House of Representatives. He has chosen a complex and controversial personality: Critical of gays, honored in Vietnam, in disagreement with the war in Iraq and in favor of a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, Hagel has declared himself opposed to an attack on Iran, so some lobbies have accused him, for no reason, of being anti-Israel. But with a view to his task, all of that will matter less than the need to start cutting back drastically (except in the case of surprises) the defense budget of the U.S., a process that will last years and could begin to translate into fewer military adventures for the first world power.

In fact, the impetus for Obama to use unmanned drones for attacks in the fight against terrorism and in wars in general responds in part to this need to reduce the U.S. contingents in diverse parts of the world. Brennan, who has spent 25 years in the CIA and whose position over the use of the torture to extract information from alleged terrorists in secret jails is not clear, is one of the driving forces for the use of drones for selective attacks in Pakistan and other places such as Yemen, something that Obama seems to share completely. This trend has not only marked a growing and worrisome activity of the agency, but also keeps it away from its traditional duties of espionage and hides these activities from political, judicial and media control, to which the Pentagon is more subject and to which the next director of the CIA could transfer part of such activities.

In any case, both hearings in Congress should serve to clarify the policies of this administration. Despite the fact that the Guantanamo detention camp remains open, Obama can still leave a more radical mark of change in his security policies. It is time.



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