Drones and ‘the Decider’

Updated
Undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/Handout
Undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/Handout

Let me get a few things out of the way. I think drones can be a useful and effective tool of war. If there is a bad guy, a senior leader of al Qaeda, let’s say, who we can take out with a drone strike, I say we do it. I am, however, bothered by the secrecy, lack of transparency, and lack of oversight of the drone program. The process by which we determine targets should be detailed and codified. The people who are killed–civilians and militants–should be public information or at least known by Congress so that we can study the overall impact of our drone policy on radicalizing civilian populations. And there should be some sort of judicial branch oversight such as special courts, or the threat of lawsuits after the fact. In short:  I’m okay with drones in general but not satisfied with the current way the program is being handled.

There is something about this drone debate that is driving me nuts, though, and that is the charge, mostly by Republicans, that if you feel any differently about the drone program under President Obama than you would have under George W. Bush, you are an utter hopeless hypocrite.

Let me ask you a question.  How would you feel about a Madeleine Albright panel on women and body image? OK. Now, how do you feel about the a Larry Flynt panel on women and body image?

Uh huh. How do you feel about your kid in Dr. Ruth’s sex ed class versus Todd Akin’s?

Do you feel differently about Warren Buffet penning standards for financial ethics versus Bernie Madoff?

Of course you do. Because you’re normal. But according to the Republican logic used during this drone debate, if you feel any different about the Madeleine Albright and Larry Flint panels, you are a hypocrite.

Look, I voted for President Obama because I trust his values and his judgment and believe that he is a fundamentally responsible person. Without gratuitously slamming an ex-president, I think Bush displayed extraordinary lapses in judgment in executing his primary responsibility as commander-in-chief and put troops in harm’s way imprudently.  President Obama would have exercised better judgment and he has exercised better judgment.

The way it stands now, the drone program is exclusively within the domain of the executive. Their protocol, their judgment. So yeah, I feel a whole lot better about the program when the decider is President Obama.

That’s not to say that the process shouldn’t be codified. That there shouldn’t be oversight. But really, is our standard so low that we would grant powers to the executive we trust only if we also would’ve granted them to a reckless leader who started a war we should never have been involved in? What would George W. Bush do? That’s our standard?  We will never allow a power to the presidency that we wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to George W. Bush?

I think we can raise the bar a bit from that.  Do you feel the same about George W Bush having the nuclear codes as you do about President Obama? Call me a hypocrite, but I sure don’t.

Drones and 'the Decider'

Updated