Obama’s Drone Strikes: American Acceptance Of Perpetual War On Terror

Americans have voiced their decision; they have accepted perpetual war. The Obama administration no longer calls our indefinite conflict a “war on terror,” but that has not changed our policy towards terrorism. In fact, it has only enhanced it, and not for the better.

This past week shed some light on America’s “secret” drone strike program when NBC’s Michael Isikoff obtained and released a Department of Justice memo which explains legal justification for targeted killings, including targeting American citizens. — Legal justification according to the Obama administration that is.

Barack Obama: Drone Ranger - image by Peter Patau

Right-leaning commentary this week has included talk of hypocrisy among liberals who support Obama, and therefore offer implicit support of Obama’s “kill list.” Of course, there was no talk of their own hypocrisy on this issue. Just cue right-wing commentary from 2004 along side right-wing commentary from last week. “Given the constant and often disingenuous criticism and obstruction the president has faced, I can understand why liberals, Democrats and others might view with some cynicism some of the outrage and indignation suddenly expressed by conservatives this week,” said MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “Much of which has been focused on liberals’ hypocrisy, rather than the underlying policy.”

But it is true that many liberals have been silent on this issue, or worse, have been critical of fellow liberals who question Obama’s use of a “kill list” to defend and protect the country. Chris Hayes cited an ABC News / Washington Post poll conducted February 1-4 that shows drone strikes receive universal support among Americans with 79% of Democrats, 81% of Independents and 91% of Republicans voicing their approval. So it seems Americans have cast their vote, and they vote for perpetual war. You see, as long as America is doing something in the name of national defense, and as long as Americans feel they are safer because of it, we can support any kind of conflict, even including a conflict that has no clear end in sight. — But it is easy to support a program that makes you feel safer if your knowledge of that program is cloaked in a veil of secrecy. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. — But can we safely say “do no evil?”

As for liberal hypocrisy on drone strikes, I turn to a blog post on laborlou.com, first pointed out by Chris Hayes on Sunday:

laborlou.com — Though this might sound like a “cold war liberal” defending CIA-led coups and military interventions, I support President Obama’s drone attacks.

And I admit that I’m a hypocrite.

If a republican administration were executing these practices, I’d probably join the chorus to condemn them as unconstitutional, authoritarian or worse.

But I trust this president’s judgment that the drones are a legitimate way to take out terrorists who would – if they could – kill thousands of Americans.  He’s making a trade-off, knowing that a successful massive terrorist attack against us would result in far greater damage to our democratic institutions.

I’m not going to fault the guy for being frank and giving his honest assessment. I admit that I give President Obama leeway that I would never afford to President George W. Bush. But where I will draw the line is in the area of trust. While I believe Obama’s judgement is better than that of is predecessor, I do not implicitly “trust” his judgement, particularly when it comes to warfare. That trust is hard-earned, if ever earned.

I think it’s dangerous for the citizenry to become complacent on war, especially war that has no definable goal. We cannot be at war against a tactic (terrorism). It doesn’t matter that the Obama administration no longer calls it the war on terror, they are still fighting it. But an armed conflict against individuals, not states, is a conflict that has no end. And in fact, it’s a conflict that creates more individuals to target.

I wholeheartedly disagree that a successful terrorist attack against us would be more damaging to our democracy. No greater damage can be inflicted upon a free people than the damage that free people can inflict upon itself.

/ image by Peter Patau

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