Obama Plays Pandora with Drones
Our President points at someone that he, in his sole discretion, considers a threat and says: "Die!" And somewhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, or somewhere else we've not been informed of, that person, or someone an intelligence agent believes is that person, duly dies or is wounded or somehow escapes the missiles fired from a drone flying in the vicinity. So also with whatever number of associated or just unlucky folk are nearby. President Obama uses an active, extensive, mechanized assassination program,
Columnist Eugene Robinson asked serious questions recently in his column: "Assassination by Robot: Are We Justified?" He's concerned with the potential errors among widely scattered spies, equipment operators, and decision-makers, and also with what he called doubtful accountability. His greatest concern is the morality of using assassination as policy and here, on a comparatively large scale, pointing to 215 drone attacks in Pakistan alone since January 2009. Two men described as leaders of an al Qaeda affiliate were recently wounded in Somalia.
Mr. Robinson is concerned; what he should be is frightened. First, should the President have sole discretion over life or death for anyone in whom he takes an interest and decides constitutes what he considers a threat? His Solicitor-General claimed that authority for him in federal court while defending a joint lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Government together with the ACLU over the drone program. Mr. Robinson is not alone, though he somewhat bemusedly wrote of the general silence and apparent lack of public concern.
Another issue arises on examining the list of countries in which we know drones have attacked people. We have declared hostilities with only two of the six; with four of those places, we claim to be at peace, yet our President is sending his machines to kill people there. Given these, there's nothing obviously preventing his killing people in Mexico City or Los Angeles, with or without drones.
Do we want our President doing these sorts of things? What are they likely to lead to?
Mr. Robinson didn't get into it but Obama has industrialized assassination and it's a growing industry. Drones are flying over much of the world, increasing numbers of people -- hundreds certainly, maybe thousands at some point -- are operating, supplying, maintaining, and repairing the equipment and providing intelligence on targets. It has become a substantial, 24/7 government program; like all such, it will grow its budget and staff with time. It will find additional missions to fulfill and it will link with the vendors and other bureaucrats who have things to gain from it.
Is this a good thing to have growing inside the U.S. government?
An additional concern with a very large potential impact is: What will other countries do in reaction to Mr. Obama's activities? The U.S. has a substantial lead in the drone technology, at least in engineering applications. But the technology is not mysterious; it's widely available. This was the subject of a recent article: "Global Race On To Match U.S. Drone Capabilities" in the Washington Post. China is pushing is drone capabilities and shaping up to be a big-time supplier, surprising no one; Israel is active too. In fact, just about everyone that can is forging ahead in this field of military and covert intelligence and attack and inevitably so.
Consider: A drone has no life to lose, can't be forced to tell secrets, never gets tired, can both spy and attack from increasing distances from the target, costs comparatively little compared to other methods, and can be made either hard to identify or very easily identifiable as belonging to someone else. They are proving pretty reliable, too. If you want to snoop or kill, what's not to like?
We led the world into nuclear warfare at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were immediately followed by those who could, who weren't many. A good night's sleep has never been quite the same since. It took a while, but the nuclear club has expanded and now includes some very spooky characters. So far, so good: nobody has had the viciousness -- yet -- to resort to nukes. However, what can happen will happen and the nuclear club continues to expand with Iran seemingly joining soon. Manufacturers of sleeping pills should be a good investment.
Drones can deliver nukes, very anonymously. They can kill selected or indiscriminate targets. They are very useful spies. Every country and many groups -- and businesses -- can afford and operate them as they become more available. Again, what can happen will happen. The U.S. and everybody else is careful not to let their military aircraft be caught in other people's airspace and they will generally be caught wherever it matters; Gary Powers' U-2 is a long time back now. Anyway, there are satellites. But drones bypass all that; they work surgically as the assassins like to put it, up close and personal, and they could belong to anybody and turn up anytime, anywhere.
See, the cops and home governments are using drones increasingly for domestic purposes. People are going to get used to them. In those conditions, how will anyone know that all the drones flying around are friendly and have a right to be there? And if it turns out that one in the vicinity isn't what it's pretending to be, how will anyone know who -- or what -- it's after? And if somehow one is found out, how will it be stopped? And if stopped, how will anyone be certain they know who was running it?
Seems to need a bit of forethought and attention, wouldn't you say?
The Prez has blithely forged ahead with his increasingly massive new spying and assassination industry; he's just about a length ahead of the pack following him in a cloud of dust. Our Pandora President has opened his box; whatever he -- or his growing list of imitators -- has loosed will soon be appearing in a theater of operations near you.