Droning on Drone attacks warrant public discussion
In our view
"We, the people," President Obama said in his second inaugural, "still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."
Within hours, a U.S. drone strike had blown three men to death on a highway in Yemen, a country with which the United States is not at war. It was one of four such strikes there in three days.
Drone strikes on a battlefield during a declared war are acts of war. But the current U.S. policy of global targeted killings is something more nefarious that needs closer attention and national discussion.
The program is in the hands of the CIA, itself operating with shadowy extra-Constitutional authority and with a lousy historical record of internal control mechanisms.
Obama's nomination of John Brennan as the next CIA director suggests full speed ahead on drones. Brennan defends the killings and credits them with protecting American lives.
On June 24, Brennan, in a newspaper interview, said, "To me, terrorists should not be able to hide behind their passports and their citizenship, and that includes U.S. citizens, whether they are overseas or whether they are here in the United States. What we need to do is to apply the appropriate tool and the appropriate response."
Apparently, sometimes, you have to kill the Americans to save them.
Some of Obama's allies should remember the previous administration, and tremble at the suggestion of leaving the measurement of "appropriateness" up to the White House.
Some should recall their former objections to reckless extension of presidential powers using new technologies based on executive interpretations and nothing more.
But the president likely knows his political allies who re-elected him, with their eyes on domestic prizes, won't break with him over this. And what Republican since Ron Paul retired wants to stand up on this and look soft on defense?
A drone is a weapon, like a bomber or a missile. Like them, it often kills people it wasn't meant to kill.
Unlike them, it now can be used by the American president at will, without the consent of Congress or informing the people of the nation what is done in their name.
If this is to be an instrument of our foreign policy, the government has at least the obligation to make a case to the American people that it is necessary, prudent and effective.
If there are Justice Department papers making a legal or ethical case for the program, let's have a look at them.
If there are State Department analyses of the effectiveness of drone strikes in cowing militants, measured against the downside of stirring up more anti-American ire in neutral nations, let's have a look at them.
If there are Pentagon figures on civilian casualties, flawed targeting and even the possibility of drones being hacked by hostile powers, let's see those, too.
It's worth recalling a line from the first inaugural speech of the same president: "Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."