President Obama's big speech on the future of the war on terrorism yesterday contained a contradiction that threatens to tie his counter-terror policy in rather thick knots. First he said he prefers to capture detainees instead of killing them. Then he recommitted himself to closing the Guantanamo Bay facility that houses those detainees — without offering an alternate prison. Welcome to a paradox.
Obama turned more than a few heads by declaring his "strong preference" for "the detention and prosecution of terrorists" over sending an armed robot to end their lives. It's hard to know what to make of that. The simplest interpretation is that it's a lie. Whatever Obama's preferences are, he has killed exponentially more people than he has detained and prosecuted.
Obama definitely prefers to prosecute terrorism suspects who are Americans inside the United States. But overseas, outside the declared battlefield of Afghanistan, the only major terrorist he detained and tried criminally is the Somali Ahmed Warsame.