Charles Krauthammer’s column today about President Obama’s embrace of targeted assassinations by drone — despite his criticism of President Bush’s detention and interrogation policies — blew up on our site (2,700 comments!) and on Twitter. Twitter’s word parsimony ordinarily makes it mostly high fives or eyeball-pokes, but we found one original response: :
K. Mikael Gustafsson @K_M_Gustafsson
Höken Charles Krauthammer om Obama och drönarna: Barack Obama: Drone Warrior
It went unchallenged. It’s hard to refute Swedish.
In the comments to the column, though, we noticed two threads dealing with the two threads of Krauthammer’s argument: pragmatism and ethics.
Krauthammer finds nothing ethically wrong with drone warfare but stipulates that Obama should, given his opposition to torture and indefinite extra-legal detention. If it’s not okay to treat enemy combatants roughly in interrogations, why is it fine to kill them dead, some with collateral civilian damage? But Krauthammer does find a pragmatic problem with a policy of killing rather than capturing enemies, because there is much less opportunity to gather intelligence once you’ve blown something up.
As is customary in Washington, we’re going to go ahead and put pragmatism before ethics:
Joshmcadams argues that we can already see the results of worse intelligence-gathering:
Without knowledge of the plans, organization and reach of the jihad network what you get is three terrorist attacks against the homeland since 2009 — the Fort Hood massacre, underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber.
But since Krauthammer says he is okay with drone warfare generally, he must approve of the inherent downsides, opines mljr. Unless he only opposes it when Obama drones:
If you’re a neocon, everything Obama does is worthy of criticism, even if you agree with what he’s doing.
The ethics thread found left-leaning commenters struggling to find ways to see Obama’s reasoning as un-hypocritical.
Adifferentpointofviewsays there’s a difference between enemies on the battlefield and prisoners of war:
The purpose of war is to stop the enemy from hurting you. Once you have done that, the people you have captured deserve to be treated humanely. It kills fewer people to single out the enemy and pick him off one at a time than to invade an entire country and kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in the process. So the drone war is the way to stop the enemy with the fewest casualties.
Except, says mike85, America’s not at war with Yemen.
When you declare a war, you notify your opposition and the world, that you intend to take military action against them. When you sneak into a country and murder hundreds of their people without any forewarning or legal authorization, you are nothing but a murderer. If the Pakistanis sent secret forces to the US to kill people who opposed them, you would be demanding that the US invade and kill their leaders.
Pkpennington has a long memory dating back to circa 2004, when the political parties’ arguments were flopped:
Our friends commenting here from the progressive side of the argument accept carte blanche the president’s taking on the role of judge, jury, and executioner and weighing calculations of collateral damage. No judicial review, not even a secret court like that required to approve wire taps and interceptions of communications. Wiretaps, for god’s sake. It doesn’t generate even a tinge of discomfort, not even a bit of cognitive dissonance, no memory of the glory days of anti-war protests and condemnation of executive overreach as a matter pf principle?
ElDirque is willing to argue on that territory:
GWB was fine with drone strikes. He certainly used them. [Krauthammer] should address that, and while he’s at it, he should also address the 600,000 estimated Iraqi innocents killed the old fashioned way, in order to get a guy that had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.
And edbyronadams finds this political positioning intriguing and has an explanation:
We are in “only Nixon could go to China” waters here. Obama’s left flank is protected by a capital D.
Alantibbetts wonders why the image of shuffling baseball cards is so creepy to Krauthammer:
Would it be better if President Obama put no thought into “collateral damage” and didn’t look at a picture?
Meanwhile, j3hess actually finds that creepy notion . . . reassuring.
No, I am not complacent about the extensive use of drones. That Obama takes personal responsibility suggests that he is not either.
Okay! Well as long as everyone is creeped out now, PostScript has done its duty for the day and says happy weekend, all, and Ett språk er aldri nok.