America's use of drone strikes received just minimal attention during the final presidential debate in Florida, but the Morning Joe crew tackled the subject Tuesday.
Host Joe Scarborough, long a critic of the Afghan war, stated his belief the drone program will cause problems for the United States in the future.
"It is deeply troubling how indiscriminate the killing has been over the past four years," he said. "It’s an important conversation we just haven’t had as a country."
Scarborough and guest, Time columnist Joe Klein, disagreed on the relative merits of the program.
"What we’re doing with drones is remarkable," Scarborough said. "[The U.S. drone policy] says if you’re between 17 and 30, and you’re within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up and that’s exactly what’s happening. Trust me, I know. You talk to guys in the CIA; you talk to people who are running this drone program. They are focused on killing the bad guys, but it is indiscriminate as to the other people that are around them who are killed at the same time. The fact that neither party wants to talk about this is something that is going to cause us problems in the coming years."
Klein took an opposing view, which led to a spirited exchange:
"I have to disagree with you," Klein stated.Scarborough: Then you don’t know what’s going on…you need to talk to people that are running this program.Klein: I have actually talked to the people who are involved in it, and it has been remarkably successful.Scarborough: At killing people, yes it has.Klein: At decimating bad people. Taking out bad people.Scarborough: And taking out a lot of innocent people as well.Klein: Saving American lives in the process because our troops don’t have to go and do this…Sooner or later, within a decade or 15 years, the entire Air Force could be drone driven. You don’t need pilots anymore, because you can do it with a joystick in California.
During last night's debate, moderator Bob Schieffer asked Mitt Romney rather than the president for his position on drones, because "we know President Obama’s position on this."
"It's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes," Romney stated. "And I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe we should continue to use it to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends."
President Obama got his chance to respond, and he did so without directly mentioning drones.
Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn’t just going after bin Laden. We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism: in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day-to-day, to make sure that their governments aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown, and to make sure that they’ve got a free-market system that works. So, across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries, and we've stood on the side of democracy.
Krista Mahr, Klein's colleague at Time, wrote today from Islamabad on drones, Schieffer's question, and Romney's response:
But if Schieffer were to bring up drones amongst politicians in Islamabad today, a few more sparks might fly. The U.S. has been using drones to target parts of the country that lie on the border with Afghanistan since 2004 in an ongoing campaign to root out militants working against U.S. troops and interests. Many in Pakistan say that its governments in the last eight years have been complicit in— if not covertly supportive of — the campaign, if simply by dint of the fact that it has not taken up what’s a clear breach of sovereignty with any international legal body.