CIA Director John Brennan's hearing....
Days before the hearing, Team Obama released a 16-page Justice Dept. Law of Drones memo, spelling out the legal justifications for allowing the administration to target Americans overseas if they are suspected of helping al-Qaeda. Restraints are minimal & collateral casualties are permissible. Three criteria are given: (1) the target is part of an "imminent" plot to harm Americans; (2) there is "undue risk" to US personnel if capture is attempted instead; (3) calls are applied within traditional law of war principles--re collateral damage, proportionality, necessity, etc.
Ron Radosh presents an impassioned case against Obama's drone policy. He makes three arguments which, although well-stated, are all flawed: (1)"imminent" means a specific plot about to be executed; (2) "undue risk" of capture equates to a license to kill at will; (3) collateral damage principles are being violated. ALL ARE WRONG. Here's why....
As to (1): al-Qaeda is an ongoing global conspiracy of groups with a common goal. To require knowledge of specific plots: (a) is rarely feasible; (b) is like requiring knowledge of specific German & Japanese plots in WW-II as a predicate to action; (c) frees our adversaries to spend more time devising specific plots & less time trying to stay alive; and (4) would cede the initiative as to battleground & timing & method to the enemy, instead of allowing us to choose.
Re (2): All capture operations are high-risk, if in remote enemy territory. Protecting our troops justifies preferring "kill" to "capture"--especially as detainee interrogation intel has largely dried up under Team Obama rules.
Re (3): knowingly inflicting collateral damage is justified against targets who use innocent people as human shields. Radosh's example of Russian anarchists declining to bomb the tsar's carriage when children were riding inside is touching; but the tsar never used children as human shields. The guys we target do not go on solo hikes, or play golf. They use human shields all the time--and thus should be blamed for collateral deaths. Indeed, by this yardstick we could not have chosen to bomb bin Laden's compound instead of raiding it. Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson offers historical examples of "anticipatory self-defense" that buttress the drone war case.
Much has been made of the incongruity between Team Obama's aggressive use of drones to kill Americans abroad "without due process." This used to be seen as arrant nonsense, as those making war against the US back then had no due process rights.
But now, our Supreme Court has conferred upon unlawful combatants some basic due process rights--more than hitherto were given to lawful combatants in prior conflicts. Legal ace Jack Goldsmith cogently argues for a new statutory framework in which Congress defines the rules & reporting requirements for "secret war," instead of letting President Obama act under older rules not designed for current challenges.
As for Brennan, yesterday he testified that he was for wateboarding before he was against it. His position on interrogation & drone policies are cited as reasons to oppose Brennan's nomination. They are not sound ones. There are many sound arguments against Brennan--his epic cluelessness about our Islamist foes being a shining example. Obama's drone policy--hypocritical though it is in light of his pre-presidency statements & opposition to enhanced interrogation techniques--is not one of them.
So we continue to enmesh ourselves in a tangled web of "lawfare."
Bottom Line. So long as we kill enough bad guys we can endure the tangle. If & when we stop being able to do so, our troubles will multiply--and be far worse than legal dilemmas.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, WMD, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Conservative Politics