Thank You, Phil Carter

Yesterday’s news feeds brought news that Phil Carter – who I’ve known since we were both standing at the sidelines together at LA Press Club events – before he re-enlisted and went back to Iraq – has resigned his position as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy.

Phil and I did not always agree on first principles; but I have so much respect for him that when we’ve disagreed on policy I’ve always stepped back and revisited things from the ground up, and often wound up far closer to his positions than I’d began. Phil did not just talk about these issues, he involved himself in them. He re-upped and served as a MP training law enforcement, judges, and lawyers in Iraq when the war there was still quite hot.

He commented once that he brought all his men home, and that nothing could make him prouder.

An attorney, he involved himself as an amicus in detainee issues early on, and was an early supporter of Obama – and I’d be a liar if I didn’t tell you that his support for Obama gave Obama a huge leg up in getting my support.

Detainee policy in this era is a minefield, and I don’t know if Phil caught a mine or if – genuinely – he just wanted a family life again. Knowing Phil, I’d tend to take his statement that it’s personal, not policy that’s sending him back to the private sector at face value.

There are definitely things about Obama’s detainee policy that I disagree with, and that make me unhappy. But I am absolutely confident that no one could have navigated these treacherous waters better than Phil, and that we are all better off because he was there.

Thank you, Phil, for everything.

5 thoughts on “Thank You, Phil Carter”

  1. Roger that. Here’s to Phil Carter, a good man who did his best according to his own lights. You shouldn’t have to agree on everything to admire that in a fellow.

  2. Detainee policy in this era is a minefield, and I don’t know if Phil caught a mine or if – genuinely – he just wanted a family life again.

    There’s another possibility. It’s extremely unpleasant to work for people who can’t make up their minds.

  3. At the same time, in his writings at Intel Dump Phil was extremely unforgiving of the previous Administration’s failings when they did not live up to his ideals of how detainee issues should operate. I have to wonder how well he was able to reconcile those ideals with the compromises that are required once one moves from being a critic to the guy calling the shots.

    He was given a tremendous opportunity to put his ideas into action. Time will tell whether he was able to meet the very high standards for results that he’d measured his predecessors by.

  4. It’s good to hold important issues and people up to strong, principled, criticism. It’s obviously far harder to be a ‘do-er’ than a critic, but it’s important that we have good critical processes in place – vide the AGW issues – to try and keep everyone on their toes.


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