Here We Go Again?

Apparently, at least eleven U.S. senators and a number of news organizations are concerned about the U.S. use of drone aircraft to kill individuals or small groups whom the Administration determines are a threat to U.S. security. Like most thinking individuals, I believe in checks and balances and Constitutional limitations on the power of any one branch of government, having witnessed and lived through periods of both Congressional and Administration abuse of power, not to mention having concerns about that potential from the Judicial Branch.

Two particular concerns raised by these individuals, however, concern me just as much as the possibility of Executive Branch abuse of power does. The first concern is the idea that an American citizen abroad plotting terrorist activities is somehow different from any other individual plotting terrorist activities. A related concern that has been expressed by some is that the memos being sought allow the president the “power to kill” any American anywhere with no oversight and no legal process. The second major concern is the idea that somehow drone attacks away from the battlefield are in themselves wrong.

What has led to these concerns is that the nature of war and conflict have changed, or rather war has changed, perhaps regressed, from an almost formal pattern of conflict that prevailed for centuries to a wide range of the use of force, including the possible use of everything from terrorism and counter-terrorism to the possible employment of nuclear weapons on a civilization-destroying basis. And neither tactics, strategies, nor legalities have totally kept pace.

All that said, I’m sorry, but a terrorist is a terrorist, regardless of nationality.  There may be very good reasons to limit drone attacks on individuals, but whether the target is an American or a foreign national is not one of them. At the same time, allowing the precedent of targeting an American citizen without due process raises another question.  When and where does an American citizen become an enemy combatant?  Saying that the president or the armed forces cannot attack or kill an American citizen plotting terrorist acts against Americans and others without a warrant is ludicrous, but allowing the president or the government authority to kill expatriate citizens, or other citizen, or for that matter foreign nationals, without defining the conditions that justify such actions could easily allow the “legal” transition to a type of police state.

The question of allowing drone attacks is, at least to me, somewhat less problematic.  There certainly are areas and places and individuals against which drones should not be used, for any number of good and legal, not to mention moral, reasons, but in a world where terror can and has struck anywhere, where terrorists and those supporting them do not limit themselves to a defined battlefield and never will, the idea of limiting the use of drones to a defined battlefield is not only absurd, but also runs the considerable risk of resulting in the killing of not only more soldiers but more civilians.  If one cannot use drones away from the battlefield, then what are the options left to the government?  Terrorists do not respond to negotiations, if indeed, they could even be found for such negotiations; they just want their demands for power met, and virtually every terrorist group ends up killing and oppressing others when it obtains power.  If drones cannot be used, then governments must either do nothing or use other means of force, and that usually means either economic sanctions or boots on the ground, both of which fall disproportionately upon the innocent.

Both of these concerns, if carried to extremes, reflect a certain naiveté, if I’m being kind, or a willful blindness in the service of ideology, if I’m being more honest.

Is there that much difference between someone who shoots someone in a gang war or a robbery and someone who shoots innocents in pursuit of political power?  In either case, people are dead because someone wants something and believes they can get it in no other way.  And in the United States, we have plenty of American citizens, unfortunately, who kill to get something, whether that something is fame, glory, material goods, revenge, or to take their anger out on others. While we do have means to deal with such individuals, assuming we can discover and apprehend them, those mechanisms do not operate overseas, and many countries, especially in parts of Asia and the Middle East, are either actively or passively endorsing terrorists.

The Senate is right to look into the policies adopted and employed by the military and intelligence agencies, but to insist on pre-conditions that exempt all Americans from actions to preclude terrorism or those which may effectively leave our government with no effective way to deal with terrorists in certain countries is anything but wise.


6 thoughts on “Here We Go Again?”

  1. Jack says:

    The entire “investigation” is political theater, because of who the president is. Those senators “opposed” to the use of drone strikes against rebel Americans, would not breathe a word against the practice if the socialist was not the man in the hot seat. I am no fan of Obama, but the use of drones, or any other weapon to kill enemies of the US has my wholehearted support. We have used police snipers to kill “armed and dangerous” criminals for generations. Kill our enemies “foreign or domestic” by whatever means necessary, be it a sniper, 007, a bomb, or a drone.
    The other group opposed to drones as an instrument of war, the ACLU, long ago abrogated its allegiance to the US. They should stick to the unjustly imprisoned individuals who received a raw deal from the system. But they will take on any “case” that will weaken the US Constitution in furtherance of their agenda.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      There’s just enough there, whether on humanitarian or due process grounds, that either political side could use this sort of situation to trumpet their ideological superiority, without regard to the consequences of an all-or-nothing approach.

      But socialists should always be criticized, for being self-inconsistent. TANSTAAFL always holds (although less so in a growing economy than a stagnant one), but they just don’t get it. Or else they _want_ to bring down the whole house of cards and have us all dependent on them. Either they’re idiots, or they’re evil, no other interpretation seems possible.

  2. Derek says:

    I am really glad you decided to write on this subject, as the echo-chamber of my mostly Republican Facebook wall leaves a lot to be desired in way of perspective.

    The idea that being an American somehow entitles you to more rights than any other terrorist on the battlefield is a disconcerting concept. Shall we make special considerations for age and gender too?

    I definitely am uncomfortable with the idea of indiscriminate bombing on United States soil, but I’m also just as uncomfortable with indiscriminate bombing anywhere else… The delivery system of said explosives doesn’t really bother me, it is a question of how they are used.

    The fact of the matter is we’re probably never going to see Hellfire missiles used in local law enforcement. However, a smaller drown armed with a tiny anti-personnel device (explosive or some form of tazer) would probably be just fine in my book for use stateside. I could see that having some amazing real-world applications that could save lives.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      “never going to see Hellfire missiles used in local law enforcement”

      Maybe not. But Philadelphia bombed MOVE in 1985 (not that they weren’t scum, but that it’s not quite right to kill five kids to take out six adults). And there’s Waco and Ruby Ridge, too.

      If a Republican mayor or President had been in charge during any of those, they’d have been forced out of office.

      Don’t say what can’t happen…quite a bit already has, and will again if we take it for granted that it won’t.

  3. LordBritish says:

    Terrorists go on to oppress their populations and cannot be negotiated with?

    Indeed, the Zionist terrorists, wanted dead or alive by our Glorious Empire might I add, “won” and now run their own country to oppress their Arab population. As I mentioned to his Majesty, allowing the Colonists to revolt and to set themselves up as these “United States” was a terrible idea. Again, you are quite a propos, the native population is now oppressed, ask any Native American.

    However I must dispute your assertion that terrorists cannot be negotiated with. After all, the foul Irish terrorists are now part of the Northern Irish government. We British should of course have bombed descendents of Ireland living in Boston for their material support of these despicable terrorists, support which injured some of her Majesty’s loyal subjects, including those serving in government. Margaret Tebbit was never quite the same.

    And don’t you worry your pretty little heads about police states. They are an additional benefit of having an Empire. Few escape. The Russian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Chinese Empire all became increasingly authoritarian, or should I say properly ordered. You’re well on your way.

    Instead of fighting fire with fire, one could of course fight it with water. A lot more boring, and less profitable to your industry, I know, but a little more effective. Who cannot notice that your “friends” the Saudis are building all these Mosques across the West. The preachers they fund then teach young Muslims to hate the West. Why is it I wonder, that we do not train moderate Muslims and send them to the Middle East to moderate those populations? Even the Chinese are investing to influence foreigners by means of their Confucius Institutes. Should we not do the same?

    1. There are terrorists, and there are terrorists. Perhaps I should have said that one cannot negotiate with terrorists who will not moderate their demands. That was certainly true of those terrible colonials in what became the United States.

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