Sunday, November 25, 2012


Hi -- I'm back. Thank you to everyone who took time to post over the holiday while I was swanning off with the family.

I don't really have anything profound to say about this, except on a peripheral issue it raises:
Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials....

The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer.... Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.

... Mr. Obama did not want to leave an "amorphous" program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said....
So Team Obama, at least, acknowledged the possibility that the president could lose. Did Team Romney feel the same way about its candidate? Not in the last month, from everything we've read.

I'm dancing around the issue of the drone attacks themselves because I have mixed feelings about them -- I think they're doing more harm than good, and yet I feel the problem isn't drones, it's war itself, which in the modern world invariably kills an extraordinary number of civilians. What we would need is the political will to withdraw from post-9/11, post-Bush combat altogether; maybe we're ready for that, but both left-wing war opposition and Paulite anti-militarism still seem like boutique tastes in American politics, rather than ideas that can command mass support. It's hard to make that case when America and other Western countries still seem to have violent enemies, and drones are inevitably going to seem more low-cost to most Americans than a full-scale commitment of troops. So, to me, hat's needed is a rethinking of fighting altogether. And I don't know what it would take to get us there.


Victor said...

Yes, we, in the reality-based community plan on what might happen if we lose.

Giving Romney/Ryan, and their NeoCLOWN foreign policy team of Bolton/Senor, et al, a drone policy without some rules, would be tantamount to handing 3 year-olds live hand grenades.

I imaagine Bolton and Senor at family get-togethers, just throwing water-balloons up in the air, just to imagine themselves as being in charge of the drone-killing machines.

aimai said...

My apologies for failing to come and post, Steve! I'm too prolix for the short form that you have mastered and I was just overwhelmed by my own guests who have not, in fact, left yet.

On the question of drones--I guess I'm agnostic. I think the whole thing is bad but Obama's presidency won't be the first to have a star chamber that condemns extra-judicially and as for civilian deaths these are not a feature of modern warfare, they are the fact of the reality of warfare down the ages. Targeted drones are no worse than the imaginary Seal teams dropping in to secure our "enemies" and blasting the odd passerby. And they are significantly better than a full on invasion though, of course, an invasion would theoretically take more thought and be less likely for (some) people and some countries.


Steve M. said...

No problem, aimai (and if you ever want to finish what you started, post it whenever you want...).

Rens said...

As a side note, a quick look at european history during the Dark Ages shows that wars were always pretty hard on the civilian population as well.

It's just that until fairly recently we didn't really think that the civilian population should be worried about in wartime.

As to how I feel about drones, personally: the concept is fine in that it enables you to make surgical strikes and take out enemy targets without exposing your own people to return fire. And if you can prevent a pitched battle where dozens or hundreds of people, military and civilian on either side will get killed by taking out the enemy commander before their force gets that far, it's a net win for everyone concerned.

What I have a problem with is the current practical issue with sloppy targeting and a distinct lack of transparency with their target selection. And at least the Obama administration seems to be working on the latter.

Unknown said...

My problem is, that under "R" we would have become a more frightened nation, until we would justify the use of drones in the USA to take out our enemies. But wait, the police are demanding the use of drones, and it takes what to arm a survelance drone? maybe 15 minutes of labor, maybe we had better worry about who is the enemy.

Daniel Becker said...

The problem with drones is the problem with our denial of what war, real war is.

First and formost, war is a personal relationship. Anything that removes this, or reduces this relationship to less personal is dangerous to people and civilization regarding the understanding of war. Thus it is not just drones that are an issue.

Second, and most important is what war really is. War is the materialization of the difference between ideas/ideology. You only win a war when the opposing ideology is reduced such that it is no longer a viable concept within the society. Ideology is a human creation, thus only lives via humans. You want to end the ideology? End the human's that carry it. (I believe it is not necessary to use war to end an ideology in most cases.)

However, we're talking war. Our modern understanding of it is WW2 and Vietnam. We won WW2, we did what with Vietnam which is under the surface as we look at the "war on terror".

We won WW2 because we leveled (we = allies) Germany and Japan. One was done over time, the other was done suddenly. 60 million people died in WW2. 6 million Germans, 3.6 million Japanese. Only 292,000 US citizens. That is what war is and how it is won.

We have convinced ourselves we can win a war with "surgical strikes" and minimal civilian involvement and "shock and awe" and all the rest of the self convincing moralizing that allows us to work to find ways of doing war that reduce our losses and considers the infrastructure losses (reduce those) and civilian losses (reduce that sort of) along with "rules" and international laws of war conductance...and we have ended up with Vietnam over, and over, and over again.

This is the problem with drones and their like. We think we have cleaned up war. We think we are solving the problems of having a war with our detached war machinary and "contained" thearter.

If you/we are not willing to level an ideology which means working to kill every living thing that represents the ideology we are at war with, then we should not be using war to settle our ideological differences.

Our wars will continue to get longer and longer as we go further down the path that drones represent.

Neo Tuxedo said...

What we would need is the political will to withdraw from post-9/11, post-Bush combat[; w]hat's needed is a rethinking of fighting altogether. And I don't know what it would take to get us there.

I think it would be just as simple, and just as complicated, as putting the American Way of Life™ back on the negotiating table for the first time since Carter. Not an instant cure for America-hate, but a removal of one of its chief props. Sadly, the American Way of Life, Inc., sales department don't want, and indeed actively discourage, a populace that's willing to do more with less.