Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Debate about Drone Strikes

I have seen several discussions about the Presidents use of drones in prosecuting the war on terror. There seems to be a couple of clear points where sides are being drawn. First, the President is taking hits, mostly but not exclusively from Republicans, because the drone strikes do not give us the opportunity to interrogate prisoners and gain what could be valuable intelligence (information about planned attacks, names of key leaders, the locations of leaders, training camps, arms stashes and etc...). Second, there is the moral and legal question about purposely killing people, executing them, without the benefit of a trial. And third, there is the argument that the strikes create terror  and therefor hatred among civilians which in turn creates more terrorists.

I understand each of those arguments and I acknowledge that there is certainly a certain amount of validity to them. But, after giving the question a good deal of thought (in my own 'fair and balanced' way, of course) I feel they are easily outweighed by the benefits provided by the drone attacks. I explain in a minute, but first let me say that while I give President Obama credit for ding 'the right thing' on this issue, it in no way implies I somehow automatically support him in his re-election. That would be an entirely different debate and with questions involving far more important (and more pressing) things to the American people.

To explain why I give him a good solid 8 out of 10 on the drone question, let me take each point in turn.

It is true that drone attacks do not give us prisoners to interrogate and to bring to trial. But, and this is a big but, they do not cost a fraction of what it costs to send a team of highly trained and valuable special operators deep into foreign and unfamiliar territory. And, more importantly, it does not cost American lives. As for the intelligence missed, well, isn't that exactly what the CIA is for? Not to mention NSA, DIA, ONI, and a dozen other intelligence agencies and counter terrorism task forces scattered throughout the government from the FBI to the Coast Guard.

As for the legality and morality of killing people without trail -well that's a non-starter for me. This is supposed to be a "war" on terror. In war you kill the enemy before he kills you. You do not send the police to arrest him and read him his rights unless he is somewhere that you can do those things safely, like in the middle of a city. Otherwise you just go out and kill the enemy. Period. Morality does not apply either. War generates an entirely different moral code that does not apply in peace time. That is simply a hard but necessary fact.

On the argument that the drone attacks create terror and hatred and thereby make it easier for terrorists to find new recruits -well, yes it does. But I would argue that a team of heavily armed men dressed in black suddenly appearing in the dead of the night, kicking in doors and snatching bad guys from their beds, does exactly the same thing. And, besides, I believe most of the new recruits would have joined the terrorists because of their religious fanaticism and already ingrained hatred of America and Western culture anyway.

There is also a political aspect to be considered. Putting 'boots on the ground' on the sovereign soil of a foreign nation is harder for that government to take than a drone strike. Pakistan, for example, had cat fits over the Bin Laden raid. While they continually protest the drone strikes, the level of protest does not approach what we would see if we increased he use of special ops in "snatch and grab" missions. The concept is also easier for our allies and other nations around the world to accept. I should note that, to his credit, the President has pretty much ignored Pakistan's protests and calls to stop or reduce the drone strikes.

Lastly, there is something to be said for the idea that we can create terror among the terrorists. I like the idea that we can demonstrate clearly that America can, and will, reach out across the oceans and continents of the world to take out those who have, or would, kill our citizens and attack us. That there is no where on earth remote enough for our enemies to hide in.

Thus endeth today's lesson on drone strikes. Audio and video presentations will be available for purchase at exorbitant prices in the near future and a movie version is set for release next summer....

Live Long and Prosper...

No comments: