I am not pro-drone. But I am pro killing those who are working to kill us.
I am anti-collateral damage, everyone is, but I know civilians are tragically killed in human warfare and robotic warfare.
I know war crimes may have been committed via our drone program but I am pro killing Al Qaeda leaders via drones even if they are American citizens. That is not a war crime. The authorization for use of military force gives the president that power and frankly you cannot join al Qaeda in a time of war and traitorously plot against us in a foreign country and expect Constitutional protection.
If you are in al Qaeda working to kill Americans you should be killed. Anwar al Awlaki, an operational figure involved with multiple attacks, a man convicted in absentia by a Yemeni court of belonging to al Qaeda, a man hiding in a tribal area from which American soldiers may not have escaped, that man should have been killed.
Abdulrahamn al Awlaki, his 16 year old son, was not in al Qaeda. He was killed while looking for his father who’d died two weeks earlier.
Some say he was targeted, which would be tragic and a war crime, but some say he was not targeted but standing too near an al Qaeda official who was targeted. We will never know.
All major wars lead to these moments of moral outrage and confusion. An endless post-geographical war against a fluid enemy is especially fraught.
We have a president who is probably extraordinarily afraid of a successful attack on America and afraid of another Black Hawk Down and battling an enemy hiding in ungovernable areas.
So he uses the technology available to disrupt al Qaeda in ways that minimize the risk to American soldiers.
Yes he has done so with a lack of oversight, which is problematic; a special court to oversee who is being targeted would be a good idea. But the idea that drones are responsible for more civilian death than human warfare is untrue.
A recent report from the Council on Foreign Relations called Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies finds “far less collateral damage from drones than other weapons platforms.” It quotes the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s finding that in the Pakistan strikes 23% of those killed were civilians and in Yemen only 8%.
The drone program is a huge asset. The drone program has made huge mistakes. It has significantly degraded the capabilities of al Qaeda but if we are intentionally killing people who are running to help victims of strikes or attending their funerals, those are war crimes. But I wonder if some in this nation are getting a little soft when they are defending the civil liberties of al Qaeda members. Torture is obviously a separate issue: once captured, you no longer pose a threat and torture becomes about vengeance. People hiding in ungovernable tribal areas who still pose a threat must be dealt with. I understand the fears of progressives, as Obama conducts a foreign policy that looks a lot like Bush’s. But we face a lot of the same problems that he did. But as the fear of al Qaeda recedes with 9/11 getting farther away, the fear of America as an empire rises.
I am not pro-drone. I am pro destroying al Qaeda. I am pro protecting America. I am pro a better drone program that is more transparent, more precise and more deadly. And I am pro ending this war as soon as we can. But I fear it’s a long way away.