Debate Magazine

The Case Against Drone Strikes

Posted on the 09 February 2013 by Reasoningpolitics @reasonpolitics
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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