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Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that has set into motion the closure of the military detention center at the Guant’aacute;namo Bay Naval Base. President Obama intends within a year for all of the current detainees to have had their cases resolved in some form and that Guant’aacute;namo be closed. President Obama’s order is morally justified and brings the United States into line not just with our own Constitution and American ideals, but restores the universal ideals of truth and justice, and begins to show signs of a new, more humble approach to foreign policy.

Since former President George W. Bush began the war on terror shortly after the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, America has increasingly relied on tactics that call into question our own commitment to certain universal ideals. It is a common moral argument that a person or a nation should not delve to the depths of their enemies. Using this standard, it is dubious whether America’s past actions would be justifiable under such an ‘eye for an eye’ standard, let alone realizing that an ‘eye for an eye’ is not the true standard that reflects justice and mercy.

Mercy always has the potential to be misapplied and result in more harm than good. Being merciful with naivety can lead to permitting injustice against the innocent, as we know that releasing a dangerous person into the public can mean that innocents might be harmed. In these cases, strict justice is indeed showing mercy. However, when mercy is dispensed with grace, it can lead to the restoration of lost lives. Strict justice does not allow much leeway for wrongdoing, but mercy allows people to have a margin of error.

In a country with the power and influence of the U.S., it is this correct form of mercy that the world needs. The powerful are the ones that are most able to display mercy, because mercy brings glory to the giver and redemption to the receiver.

America‘s past policy at Guant’aacute;namo did not even reach this level. In this scenario, we are merely looking at whether we have applied our own principles with consistency. The U.S. Constitution provides safeguards for the rights of individuals, and the Geneva Conventions provide surety during wartime. By classifying a whole range of people as enemy combatants, former President Bush circumvented the normal avenues for the resolution of criminal cases.

The argument can be made that these cases are not appropriate for civilian courts. If this is true, military courts-martial can be used in their stead, but, one way or another, justice needs to be made manifest for these individuals and a final determination made as to their status. Leaving several hundred people in indefinite detainment is not consistent with our Constitution.

While there have always been detractors, America has traditionally been admired in the world for upholding certain ideals. America offers hope to many throughout the world. In the past, this goodwill extended yet further because America was considered a great power without being imperial or throwing its weight around. America always took its time before being roused to any military response.

In the current situation, it appears that we have used our power to push our way around in the world, especially in the Middle East. This has turned many admirers into critics. As a first principle, Americans should never bend its ideals to the critiques of the elites of foreign nations, but in the present case we only have our own values upon which to look.

President Obama has conditioned his executive order to ensure that the national security interests of the U.S. will not be compromised. He has proposed that the current cases be reviewed, and that prisoners either be returned to their home countries or tried in either a civilian or military court.

Returning to our traditional approach of being a humble nation that offers hope to the world, and not imposing our will on people that are not convinced, will itself go a long way towards restoring goodwill for the United States in the international arena.

President Obama would do well to stay firm on his commitment to close Guant’aacute;namo, withdraw American troops from Iraq, and disengage from excessive military intervention in foreign affairs.

Planning for the closing of the American military base at Guant’aacute;namo Bay is an important first step towards restoring America‘s image abroad. It not only heralds in a more traditional and humble approach to American foreign relations, but brings us back to our own first principles. This continues p
rogress both domestically and internationally, and all Americans should eagerly encourage President Barack Obama in this effort.

Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]