The Case Against Drone Strikes

Defence Images/ Flickr

Defence Images/ Flickr

I wrote a piece on Thursday that laid out the case for the US’s current policy on drone strikes. The article drew many comments, mostly focusing on the lack of oversight, accountability, and excessive secrecy in the program. While I personally am in favor of the program, please allow me to present you an unbiased case against drone strikes.

The first comes from Patrick Buchanan writing for The American Conservative:

When may Obama order an American killed?

According to a Justice Department “white paper,” any “informed high-level official” can decide a target is a ranking operative of al-Qaida who “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” and if we cannot apprehend him, order him eradicated with a Hellfire missile.

As law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell argues: “For a threat to be deemed ‘imminent,’ it is not necessary for a specific attack to be underway. The paper denies Congress and the federal courts a role in authorizing the killings or even reviewing them afterwards.”

He also worries that the bad blood these strikes cause is creating new terrorists:

A question raised by Donald Rumsfeld years ago—Are we creating more terrorists than we are killing?—needs re-raising. For if these drone strikes that kill innocent and guilty alike are creating new millions of sympathizers for al-Qaida, and recruiting new thousands of volunteers willing to dedicate their lives to taking revenge against us, we have entered upon a war that may never end.

Al-Qaida in Afghanistan is said to be ravaged and on the run. Yet we read of al-Qaida affiliates cropping up not only in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but Iraq, Syria, Libya and Mali. How many of these new cells were inspired by past drone strikes to destroy old al-Qaida cells?

He ends with concerns that drones will bring about endless war:

Is the war on terror to be like the war on crime, eternal, with U.S. soldiers policing the world forever, even as cops police our cities?

What is Obama’s plan, the Republicans’ plan for ending or winning this war, whose scope widens with each year?

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” wrote the author of our Constitution.

As we see the great buildings of our capital enveloped in concrete barriers, as U.S. citizens are forced to submit to intrusive searches before boarding airliners, one wonders: How long before the Republic becomes a garrison state?

The second case against comes from Steve Clemmons at The Atlantic. He gives us a slippery slope argument, saying that while the current drone strikes are justified-they are against some very bad people after all- the precedent it sets can lead to government abuses in the future:

I could support the controversial act of the White House-authorized killing of Awlaki if this was an extremely rare instance in which significant numbers of lives and broader national security equities were at stake. However, we are talking not about the killing of one U.S. citizen; we are discussing the institutionalization and routinization of this drone-killing power against other potential U.S. citizens, as well as other terrorist targets more broadly.

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19 Responses to The Case Against Drone Strikes

  1. Pingback: #StandwithRand: A Symbolic, But Significant, Filibuster | Outspoken

  2. I commend you for equally presenting both sides of a complicated issue.

  3. Thank you for posting these opinions. These are the reasons I hesitate on this issue. I was watching ABC World News and Martha Raddatz was interviewing a Saudi and he said that America doesn’t realize it only creates more terrorists with this plan.

    This is what I’m afraid of as well as the no evidence rule and no congressional oversight.

    • The cases are so strong on each side I felt compelled to post it all. When I started this site, I really wanted to state my opinion and then post the argument against my own. I don’t do it enough.

      • I think you do a good enough job. I think you are far too critical of yourself. Remember at this point this is only a hobby.

      • Thanks for saying so. When I started blogging I didn’t realize I’d enjoy it so much. I’m just really motivated to do the best job possible. I’m sure you feel the same way. I can tell you take pride in your work.

      • Thanks, I feel the same way too. I feel bad today because I may be getting sick because all I want to do is sleep. I haven’t been able to blog and I feel like I’ve let my readers down.

        In reality I would love to have a “morning Joe” type of show maybe on CNN. I just got to get Mariam to blog more.

        But yeah I really do care that people like what I write. They don’t have to always agree with me but it is so disheartening when one of my posts doesn’t get as much traction or any comments.

        I’m sure you can relate. On another topic, how’s paperblog treating you?

      • Well, I see my articles (and yours too) are featured prominently in the politics and the debate sections. I haven’t seen many “referrals” from them though; just a handful of people are clicking over apparently.

        How’s it going for you?

      • Those aren’t referrals.. that’s there count of how many people they counted read your blogs on WordPress.

        I’m sure you’ve gotten many views on the site itself. Have you noticed an increase on WordPress? I don’t know what you average daily..

        As for Paperblog we get better every month, last month got over 5000 views on their site. 2500+ do far this month…got many views for that nude teacher post lol

        When all else fails apparently you should blog about nudity or sex lol

      • Oh hey! Look at that. I hadn’t gone into paper blog’s own stats. Yeah it looks like I’ve gotten over 770 in 5 days on their site, and 140 clicks on my own.

        I’ve been averaging 110 views a day on WP, so I guess paperblog is adding to it. Last month it was around 100 a day.

        I was expecting to see paper blog show up in the referral sites in WP’s stats page.

        How could anyone pass up that article about the teacher? Sex sells! 🙂

      • The referrals you see on WordPress I think are the editors reading your blog. Usually if you get that then they like it and will highlight it.

        110 a day is you gained quite the following. I can’t wait until I go the next step. I want 1000+ views in one day. I got 896 last week with that post 🙂

        Ours varies. We are averaging like anywhere from 180- 300 a daily. It really depends if a post becomes a hit.

        I have to say I love when they pick mine as editor’s pick lol and I like when people reblog mine. Helps promote the blog to their followers. Although I don’t do it too much.

        Hey I don’t mind. A view is a view, even if it’s from hormonal teen ( or adult) Lmao

      • Wow! That’s a ton of views for one article. I’d love 1000 in a day. The most I’ve ever hit is like 240.

        Oh and yes, I love being editor’s pick too!

      • Oh no that was my total views for the day. Many of them were for that article but not all. Right now it’s my all time high at 1580 views.

        I just want to keep getting better. My goal has always been to get more views every month.

        By yeah I love when an article gets many views 🙂

  4. My issue with that last quote is the same that I mentioned on my blog and in my response to your Thursday post: we’re not DRIFTING toward perpetual war. We’re already there.
    By default, the war on terror is eternal. Hit one and another one pops up elsewhere – like whack-a-mole. Even after we pull out of Afghanistan, unless we spell out that we’re going to stop pursuing terrorists especially of al-Qaida, we’re already in this perpetual state of war. But even as people criticize the use of drones, and others say “how would you feel if a different country started throwing drones at your neighborhood to take out its own hit list?,” we have to realize that reducing or ending our war on terror is a terrible catch-22.

    Criticisms abound now of our methods, but that’s nothing compared to the political firestorm either side would start up if the president (whichever party he’s/she’s from) announced that, like Iraq and Afghanistan before it, the war AGAINST TERROR is OVER. The president and their party would be demonized as being soft on national security and not caring to protect U.S. interests.
    We’re STILL hearing about how “Clinton got away with murder” in Benghazi because of the belief, justified or otherwise, that security requests and sitreps were ignored in the months and weeks leading up to the attack on the consulate there. That’s child’s play compared to the outrage if our national leaders decided to end the war on terror because of the slippery slopes, collateral damage and all the other logistical and ethical issues affiliated.

    So where do we go from here? I honestly don’t know.

    • I do know that the right wing media had a field day when Obama announced they would cease using the term, “War on terror.” It does seem like an issue that one has to manage, like crime, rather than wage a war against.

    • johnhaskell says:

      I am not so certain that there would as much political backlash. The American public seems legitimately tired of the war propaganda for two reasons. First, long engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with intervention in Yemen and Libya, have brought the public to the point where, regardless of the merits, people do not want to hear about war. Second, the economy is a mess, and like most domestic issues, they take precedence over foreign policy. 9/11 worked its way into the public spotlight so well because it was a foreign policy issues that became hugely domestic (hence, all of the legislation Bush was able to get passed with much political fanfare). Now, I think with unemployment high, and the debt even higher, that most foreign policy issues sit in the backburner of people’s minds.

      I think the voices we hear vis-a-vis Benghazi are primarily political pundits (shills) who are more concerned with scoring political points–that is not to suggest there are not substantive issues to be threshed from the Benghazi attack, but that is not the thrust of most of the commentary coming from those pundits.

  5. uberspeck says:

    I have to admit to being on the fence a little bit on this issue. I can see arguments from both sides. The Bush years did little more than create recruiting material for extremists, specifically the war in Iraq. I worry that the drone strikes are doing more of the same. The technology is impressive and in ideal conditions I believe collateral damage is minimal. The problem is conditions are rarely ideal. How often are we 100% sure of our target etc? On the other hand, if someone decides to align themselves with a group who’s mission is to kill Americans (or for that matter, any group of innocents), I have trouble finding justification NOT to have them terminated. Especially when they’re outside the jurisdiction of law enforcement and can’t simply be captured/detained. I remember stories about how the CIA sat and watched Bin Laden on video feeds from drones in the days before they armed them. If they had been able to kill him then, would 9/11 have been averted?

    • I have the same feelings. This issues seemed to be a good one where both sides have valid points, so I wanted to present both.

      Mark Bowden’s Bin Laden book featured drones and drone policy quite a bit. It does seem, from his interviews, that drones are currently being used properly, and that we are preventing far more deaths than we cause. The concern is that guidelines are not in place so it wont matter who’s in charge.

      The next administration could abuse or misuse the power drones give them, and without proper rules and oversight… that’s a scary thought.

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