The dissociation from the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, was the trademark of Barack Obama’s election campaign that brought him into the White House in 2009. In the center of the criticism: the war in Iraq and the so-called war on terror.
Obama ended the Iraq War, at least concerning the direct involvement of U.S. troops. In the “war on terror,” on the other hand, Obama expanded the very program which had received a leading role in the U.S. arsenal during Bush’s time: the drone war. In Pakistan alone, which does not find itself at war with the U. S., over 300 drone sorties have been flown since Obama entered office. Along with real or suspected al-Qaida fighters, countless civilians lost their lives.
On Thursday, Obama wanted to announce a first concrete reorientation. The threshold for the deployment of drones is supposed to be higher, and the U.S. president has decided to kill fewer civilians. That’s something.
Of course, Obama is not giving up the right to become militarily active anywhere in the world where the U.S. government senses “danger.” The continuing infringement on national sovereignty in countries that are too weak to resist remains the declared U.S. policy. Shifting the drone program from the CIA to the Department of Defense does not change anything.
Obama also wanted to renew his aspiration to close the prison camp in Guantánamo. Finally, prisoners against whom there are no reasons for punishment will be released to Yemen, too. That is overdue and probably also a success of the prisoners’ hunger strikes. All in all, however, the fact remains: Obama still lags behind the aspirations for which he was once elected.