The short-term political fallout for President Obama himself is minimal. He has probably handed his old Senate seat over to Republicans, who will benefit from leading the criticism against the decision. Because the correctional facility is located only a short distance from the Iowa border, that state's embattled Democratic governor is probably finished as well.Many Missouri lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have been extremely outspoken opponents of moving Gitmo into our backyard, with Sen. Kit Bond proclaiming, "We ought to put 'em in Alcatraz and let our good friends in San Francisco deal with these deadly combatants."
Closing Guantánamo will be dismissed as merely symbolic if it's not accompanied by substantive reform of our detention policies as well.Is 23 hours a day in a closet-size cell humane for someone who has never actually convicted of a crime? How about if they're an accused terrorist who will be living a few hundred miles from your home?
The Obama administration has still not made clear the terms under which it intends to hold prisoners there. It need not "try or release" everyone there, as some have argued. The law of war permits military detention of those fighting against us in an ongoing armed conflict, and our involvement in Afghanistan certainly qualifies.
But the definition of who we may detain must be narrowly tied to that ongoing conflict; we must provide fair hearings and afford detainees a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves; the burden of proof for detention should be stringent, and should rise as the detention gets more prolonged; and we must treat the detainees humanely.