Kudos to Ben for highlighting the Obama administration’s lawless drone violence. Undoubtedly, the best article I ever read from this past election cycle was by Conor Friersdorf, on the topic of Obama’s drone wars. Wrote Friersdorf:
[I]f you’re a Democrat who has affirmed that you’d never vote for an opponent of gay equality, or a torturer, or someone caught using racial slurs, how can you vote for the guy who orders drone strikes that kill hundreds of innocents and terrorizes thousands more — and who constantly hides the ugliest realities of his policy (while bragging about the terrorists it kills) so that Americans won’t even have all the information sufficient to debate the matter for themselves?
How can you vilify Romney as a heartless plutocrat unfit for the presidency, and then enthusiastically recommend a guy who held Bradley Manning in solitary and killed a 16-year-old American kid? If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.
But I don’t see many Obama supporters feeling as reluctant as the circumstances warrant.
The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.
Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. Have you any deal-breakers?
The election has shown that millions of voters do not in fact have any deal-breakers, but rather will happily—joyfully—vote for someone whose behavior they would have vociferously condemned if engaged in by a Republican. I will go to my grave before I understand why Obama supporters apparently believe that continued funding for PBS is more important than ending the bombing of innocent civilians. But their willingness to accept horrible violence overseas in return for Big Bird and gay marriage at home can only be described as tragic.
The New York Times has a nice article on the White House’s push to develop a “rule book” to regulate drone strikes. Apparently, during the campaign the Obama White House was scrambling to develop concrete procedures that would regulate how and when a hypothetical Romney administration could use drones. The article quotes an unnamed White House official admitting “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands.” Once the election was over, however, such an attempt to institutionalize policies suddenly lost their sense of immediacy. The White House is still working on crafting a “rule book” but seem in no real rush to do so.
The overarching message from all of this seems to be: “there need to be clear standards and procedures in place; just not for us.” Rarely is liberal hypocrisy ever so blatant.
While it is reassuring that the Obama administration at least comprehends that their actions have consequences that will continue after them, they don’t seem willing to change their own behavior accordingly. The NYT article points out the very real possibility that other countries will follow suit in developing and using drones. The fact that the Obama administration sees no problem continuing to use drones that kill a startling number of civilians (including children) without first formulating any kind of institutional regulations for ordering drone strikes shows a contempt for legal procedure that borders on the tyrannical. The fact that the entire drone program remains shrouded in secrecy only adds to the dangerous precedent being set. Set aside what such strikes do to the public perception of America in Yemen and Pakistan; it is this disregard for legal procedure- in effect, disregard for the rule of law- that will come back to haunt America.
All of this reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies (and plays). In Fred Zinnemann’s film adaptation of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More gives one of the most eloquent defenses of constitutionalism and conservatism to ever grace the silver screen.
The Obama administration may think that killing terrorists and protecting America’s security is a worthy enough goal to justify working without specific institutional procedures. But when we begin to cut down the laws that stand between us and whatever Devil we are after, that same law will be utterly unable to protect us from the Devil, as well as ourselves.
Tags: A Man for All Seasons, Barack Obama, conservatism, constitutionalism, drone wars, institutions, legal procedure, Pakistan, predator drones, Robert Bolt, Sir Thomas More, Yemen
Did you know that there is actually a great lineup of TV programming all Tuesday morning and afternoon? From gritty crime dramas like CSI: Miami to the laugh-out-loud hilarity of The New Adventures of Old Christine, Tuesday’s lineup is not to be missed!
It would be a real shame if there were something else pulling you out of the house. At the very least, remember that no innocent Pakistani civilians will die as a result of which shows you watch.