Obama’s presidency has started with a bang, the new leader making a symbolic early move to close the Guantánamo Bay military prison and curb the country’s interrogation practices. But many commentators are warning that Obama can’t simply write off Guantánamo with the stroke of a pen. Here’s a taste of how they saw it:

Torture is not moral, legal or effective. I was moved Tuesday when President Obama said, “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” that America would once again stand for human rights at home and abroad. Today he made good on that promise. — Joan Walsh, Salon

Fighting terrorism is simpler when you’re a candidate. Dangerous enemy combatants can’t simply be released into the streets. The Obama camp says that after reviewing the classified files, it will try to repatriate as many as safely possible. But 60 already cleared for release remain because they may be persecuted by their home countries. And even Mr Obama’s vaunted diplomacy is unlikely to convince rights-protecting countries to resettle people he believes are too dangerous to release in the US — and the more willing Mr Obama is to release prisoners, the more difficult this problem will become. — Wall Street Journal

Britain must not abandon Guantánamo prisoners. An overt demonstration that Britain actually stands up for its principles is a good way to dissolve the stain of hypocrisy that marred this country’s reputation, fostered by a dysfunctional relationship with the Bush Administration. That perception of hypocrisy has been the yeast that has fermented much of the hatred inspiring those who decided — sickeningly — that attacking London was a heroic cause. — Clive Stafford Smith, Telegraph

Obama is right to tread warily over Guantanamo Bay. In theory, solving the Guantanamo problem is as easy as pie. All one has to do is decide which of the remaining inmates should be freed, and which should be charged for trial in a US federal court. Yet dealing even with the former group is fraught with difficulty. — Deborah Orr, The Independent

Closing Guantanamo is way harder than you think. Proclaiming an intention to close Guantánamo is the easy part; actually doing it is another thing. Even harder will be crafting a new detention policy and legal regime for a post-Guantánamo world. And Obama has offered few details of how he will do so. — Matthew Waxman, Foreign Policy

To dream of redemption. Today, in announcing an end to torture and a closing of Guantanamo, Barack Obama offered America a chance at redemption. A chance to end the rot. A chance to be the America most of us grew up believing in — an America which, for all its sins, did not engage in wholesale torture. An America which actually did stand against a totalitarian state. An America in which certain lines were not to be crossed. — Spencer Ackerman, Firedoglake

Indefinite detention center. Obama’s attempt to deal with the mess in Guantanamo is admirable and stands in marked contrast to President Bush — whose remarkable lack of interest in resolving these issues was illustrated by his recent announcement that he is no longer considering Pentagon and State Department proposals on how to move men off the base. But a willingness to tackle the tough questions will only get Obama so far. — Joseph Landau, The New Republic

Peter Fray

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