Barry Cool

Full day no.2 and Obama has ordered the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay:

“The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly,” Obama said. “We are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.”

A draft copy of the order said: “In view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.”

And with Hillary now installed as Secretary of State, his foreign policy agenda has now begun, with the appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as peace envoy to the Middle East:

Obama and Clinton addressed State Department employees, and officially named former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the president’s special envoy to the Middle East and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Oh my. Can I be officially excited now? Why, you ask? Because Mitchell was a fundamental player in creating the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland:

Appointed by Bill Clinton as a special envoy to Northern Ireland in 1995, he embarked on three years of patient, constant diplomacy, becoming a virtual commuter across the Atlantic. When he began, Unionists would not so much as sit at the same table as the republicans of Sinn Fein. By the time Mitchell was done, David Trimble and Gerry Adams were both signatories to a pact that most thought impossible.

The question now is whether Mitchell would seek to apply the same approach to the Middle East. Will he want to replicate the geometry of international involvement, perhaps having the EU play the same role for the Palestinians that Dublin did for the republicans and nationalists – acting as guarantor – while the US stands behind Israel, much as Britain did for the Unionists? More specifically, might he devise a new set of Mitchell principles that could allow Hamas – or at least a political wing, defined separately from the military arm, much as Sinn Fein stood apart from the IRA – a seat at the table?


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