Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And the President Droned On...

I am conflicted over our use of drone strikes overseas. I think they could be a useful tool, but not the way we are currently using them, and I hate the fact that the technology is coming home to spy on US citizens.

Bunkerville has been doing a consistently excellent job covering the president's extra-judicial assassinations, and their latest post on Yemen sparked me to investigate further, leading me to a good article in The Atlantic, of all places.

Joshua Foust wrote a surprisingly-balanced piece in that magazine, Targeted Killing, Pro and Con, examining the issue of drone strikes in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He starts with the recently released report, Living Under Drones.
The report argues that the U.S. narrative of drone strikes -- precise, accurate, and limited -- is false. Citing 130 interviews and a review of media reports, the authors argue that the civilian toll from drone strikes is far higher than acknowledged, that many problems with the drone campaign go unreported, and that more government transparency is essential to gaining a better understanding of the campaign and its consequences.
While acknowledging that bad things happen, the author rightly questions the report as biased and not having a big enough sample, and not sampling enough of the people who are affected by the strikes. He points out that the strikes are highly effective in taking out bad guys, and he asks, are they really so bad? And more importantly, is there a better alternative?
It is not a simple one to answer. Looking at how residents in the FATA have behaved in other violent campaigns is instructive. In early 2009, the Pakistani Army announced its campaign to "clear" the Swat Valley, north of Islamabad, of terrorist groups that had been systematically murdering elders and tribal policemen and destroying hundreds of schools and other government buildings.

As the campaign proceeded, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 300,000 people fled the fighting. By the end of the campaign, more than 1 million people got displaced by the army-Taliban fighting in Swat, which left the region completely devastated.
There have been no reported mass movements of people fleeing the drones in the last four years. The mere threat of a Pakistani army offensive into Waziristan, however, prompts thousands to flee in terror. There are several possible explanations: for example, people in heavily affected drone areas might be terrified to leave their houses.
But there is a simpler explanation: Perhaps drones are not as scary as opponents claim.
He makes a good point.  I have read reports featuring people cheering the strikes because they are fed up with the violent gangs that infest the place.  The anti-drone groups and campaigns could be patsies of the terrorists, who knows?

If drone strikes minimize the amount of troops on the ground and really are effective at taking out bad guys, then I'm for them, but it needs to be done transparently, and with congressional oversight.

We also can't have governments invite us in and then publicly badmouth us while privately cheering us on as duplicitous Pakistan does. If we're going to partner with a nation, it needs to be an honest alliance that furthers US objectives.

But most important is the transparency.  Why isn't congress debating our overseas actions and bringing We The People into the discussion?  Has congress voted on any of this?  Has anyone from the government explained to us why we are in Yemen? Should we be there?  Should we be in Pakistan?


Constitutional Insurgent said...

Just idle speculation on my part, but I don't think there's any pushback on both drone strikes and c/overt involvement in random nations......because neither party wants to see the reins pulled back. The Democrats for here and now, and the GOP for when they next occupy 1600 Penn.

Our current system of foreign policy actions have simply made it far to easy and convenient, rather than undergoing accountability and review. Though this system is not new to this Administration or even this generation, each succeeding occupant has further transformed the notion of the imperial Presidency.

Silverfiddle said...

Though this system is not new to this Administration or even this generation, each succeeding occupant has further transformed the notion of the imperial Presidency.

Yes indeed. That is why this is not a criticism of Obama. He is just carrying on Bush's policies, much to the chagrin of lefties like Ducky.

Michael Corleone said...

If this next debate is an honest one and Obama is NOT given the question in advance as I feel he will, then Mitt Romney should slaughter him as he did in the first debate. Because this on is on Foreign policy and Obama clearly doesn’t have any! Obama and his stooges that are called his administration lacks a consistent policy in the Middle East. Do you remember when the Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran to protest a stolen election and were begging for help to over- throw the Little Hitler Ahmadinejad? The Obama administration was silent, we did nothing to help them when that was the chance to help get rid of that Monster.. And when protests broke out in Egypt, the Obama administration along with Madam Hillary said Mubarak must go and we sent in our troops to help., But when protests broke out in Syria, the Obama administration along with Madam Secretary of State said that we should wait al-Assad could still become a useful reformer given time. The Obama administration chose to. intervene in Libya, and in Egypt to prevent a genocide in Benghazi but has refused to provide help or even supplies to the thousands of people being massacred in Syria. And we are still giving more and more time to Iran when we know damn well that sanctions are not going to work, while they are getting closer and closer to having nuclear weapons. What will be worse than that! And we do nothing at all to help as far as Israel is concerned

It's a good thing for Obama that he's isn’t counting on my vote, because he's not going to get it.

Constitutional Insurgent said...

"And when protests broke out in Egypt, the Obama administration along with Madam Hillary said Mubarak must go and we sent in our troops to help."

Could you expand on this remark?

It's also odd that if sanctions are never going to work against Iran, that it would be the primary tool in Romeny's rather scattershot foreign policy proposal.

Thersites said...

There is one, and only one, reason why Obama is fighting the drone war, and THAT is to not have to "store" and "bring to trial" and/or "torture" and thereby gain actionable intelligence from "captured" terrorist. With a drone strike, there is NO possibility of "capture."

He promised to shut-down Gitmo. Unable to keep that promise, he has simply refused to "expand" upon the population currently in custody.

Silverfiddle said...

Thersites: I'm an Occam's Razor kinda guy, and you explanation makes more sense than anything else I have read.

Z said...

Thersites does make a good point...very interesting.

"Has congress voted on this?" Have they been asked to?!

Yemen, Pakistan; hotbeds of the Taliban (did you see Lara Logan's information that the Taliban's very strong and she is upset that our government's saying quite the opposite? she's the reporter raped overseas recently)...

Ducky's here said...

"And we are still giving more and more time to Iran when we know damn well that sanctions are not going to work ... "
The Iranian currency is collapsing and they may be entering hyperinflation.
One thing hyperinflation generally brings is political change.

Anonymous said...

Thersites beat me to it. I think it is ironic that this president is against "water boarding" but he is not against killig by remote control.

-FJ the Dangerous and Extreme MAGA Jew said...

Then there were the thousands of US soldiers who went to their deaths based on Bush's lies.

Yet Obama knew all this about "Bush lies", yet STILL insisted upon killing thousands more over his four year term...

Talk about what a TRUE cynic Obama must be. That's 1,000x WORSE than ANYTHING Bush "supposedly" did. To cynically let people die on the basis of a known lie...

-FJ the Dangerous and Extreme MAGA Jew said...

Thanks for pointing THAT out, Stevie.

skudrunner said...


Obama is the president not bush. Is your rant an LSD flashback, I heard they can be a bitch to deal with.

FreeThinke said...

I am reminded of sadly ironic story of Monsieur Guillotine:

He wound up having his head chopped off by his own invention.

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

I share your suspicions, Mindy.

Obama is likely to be given everything but a teleprompter to recite his scripted answers to whatever tough questions his buddies in the enemedia may choose to ask.

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

"There is one, and only one, reason why Obama is fighting the drone war, and THAT is to not have to "store" and "bring to trial" and/or "torture" and thereby gain actionable intelligence from "captured" terrorist. With a drone strike, there is NO possibility of 'capture.'

"He promised to shut-down Gitmo. Unable to keep that promise, he has simply refused to "expand" upon the population currently in custody."


A brilliant deduction and entirely plausible.

The current White House phobamanon should infect all thinking people with such deep, corrosive cynicism.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

If Obama is re-elected. God forbid, who is he going to blame for the prior administrative ?

Finntann said...

@Bombing our enemy has never been against US policy.

We're at war with Pakistan? Damn, I must have missed that one.

Yemen? Somalia? Libya?

Wow! Your boy sure is making a lot of enemies.

@He was unable to close GITMO because the Republiscum House would not give him the funds to secure another prison, or transfer the prisoners.

You got a problem with democracy stevie-boy? Must. Since after you had a majority (which I might add voted for the damn war) that you lost when a majority of Americans put Republicans in the House. Gee, the majority of duly elected representatives in the House won't fund your prisoner relocation. Awww!

Anonymous said...

Stevie Boy=idiot

Silverfiddle said...

@ Ducky: One thing hyperinflation generally brings is political change.


I like Obama putting the screws to the via sanctions. My big criticism of him on Iran is that he ignored the opposition protests.

skudrunner said...

"Republiscum House would not give him the funds to secure another prison, or transfer the prisoners."

If you read the papers or saw the news you would have noticed that for the first two years Obama had total control of both houses of congress. he could have done anything he wanted yet he chose to buy a couple car companies, destroy some running used cars, bought some union members and pass a healthcare tax and of course blame Bush and the GOP.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

Silverfiddle, my esteemed friend, we've talked about this before. This is an executive branch overreach, so no, Congress is not overseeing it, they have nothing to do with it, including its funding. Congress didn't drop the ball on this one, the American people did when we sat back and either cheered Obama's power-grab (he can and does unilaterally decide who dies and who doesn't, and yes, that can and does include American citizens) or just let it go, perhaps preferring to blame Congress.

-FJ the Dangerous and Extreme MAGA Jew said...

Four years Obama could have stopped it... as "CinC" yet he kept ordering drone strikes and personally approving target hit lists...

...and Stevie blames "Bush". Talk about self-blinding ideologies...

Bunkerville said...

Thanks for the mention. I started out conflicted as well, but I have been following the African newspapers and it is clear to me that we are incurring much disfavor. Civilian deaths are massive. They need to be reported and as you say, with oversight by our congress.

Les Carpenter said...

There ya go again Wolfie Boy stevie...

How's the dank corners of your reality these days?

Your hate will eventually consume you Wolfie Boy stevie.

Perhaps it already has...

Trekkie4Ever said...

I agree with you about using drones to take out only the "bad people." I think in that case it would be worth it to use the drones.

I just like the fact that they may take away our privacy in the process.

It's a bit of a toss up. If it could utilized only to monitor and destroy the enemy by all means, use them.

Michael Corleone said...

We've got problems that require adult leadership. We've got a man in Mitt Romney who has accomplished things in life. O'Barry, on the other hand, has been praised and promoted all his life for voting "present". Besides, Americans aren't really all that into Marxist ideology.

Liberalmann said...

Hypocrites. The right would be cheering if Bush used drones as such. So...you'd rather we commit and sacrifice a few thousand more ground troops? Or a few billion dollars more?

Sam Huntington said...

The domestic use of drones is the natural next step from using closed circuit TV cameras at intersections and along public walkways in large cities. I didn’t mind such devices inside banks, or to monitor private property; I do regard these things as a government intrusion, even if no one has a right to privacy on a public thoroughfare. It is at this time we should ask ourselves, “Was the Patriot Act patriotic, or dangerous to a free society?”

I do not think it is appropriate to use drones against US citizens. Unmanned aircraft are not the same thing as law enforcement helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. I’m not sure any court could sustain this argument, however.

For the record, I have to draw the line against using hell fire missiles on US citizens, well, other than Liberalmann or Steve, who are just asking for it.

Silverfiddle said...

Yeah Stevie, you're the factiest fact guy I know.

I have a suggestion. Go start your own blog where you can provide all the facts about how we're mean haters. You can expound on your crackpot theories and all your mslsd and democrap underground dingbats can join in the chorus.

From now on, I'm deleting all your comments. May not happen immediately, not till I get off of work maybe, but no comment of yours will stand. I've also gone back and deleted past comments.

You've proven yourself to be an exemplar liberal Obama voter. You are illogical, you don't listen, and you refuse to take your leave when politely asked to do so.

You're making an ass of yourself, and we're all laughing at you, hanging around shouting "hey everybody look at me! I'm a big boy!" when we've all asked you to leave and told you to your face that you are a laughingstock here.

Deleting is easy, and I will continue to do it.

Silverfiddle said...

**** Special Request ****

To my serious interlocutors:

We have a problem here. Ever walk through the park lamenting how some people won't pick up the doggy doo?

Well, we have a doggy doo problem here, and I beg your indulgence to please step over it, hold your nose, and don't mention it.

I will eventually clean it up, but I don't hang on the computer 24/7, so sometimes the offending excrement may sit around awhile. Again, I ask you to please step over it.

Thank you the management

Ducky's here said...

“Was the Patriot Act patriotic, or dangerous to a free society?”

Well Sam, I think we all come to the same conclusion there and most of us feel powerless to stop it.

I was taking a photo in front of the Bank of America Boston home office. Not even the building, a busker across the street.
Just like that a guard comes out and says he got a call and I have to move on. I was on a public sidewalk. It's everywhere.
Rare I can go a week without someone trying to block free expression.

Ducky's here said...

Actually, Mindy, Obummer got himself elected president of the United States. Not a lot of folks have accomplished that, even Mittens.

Finntann said...

@Obummer got himself elected president of the United States.

Yeah that's an achievement, what are the requirements these days? Being photogenic and having a pleasant voice?

We are "powerless to stop it" because we all root for the home team, red or blue, regardless of what they are doing on the field.

Me? I never vote a straight party ticket... how many D's and R's can honestly say that? I will research and vote for the most qualified candidate with views aproximate to mine that has a fair chance of winning (Sorry, Gary).

Until we stop simply pushing the R and D buttons, we get what we deserve.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Drones, schmones.

What we need is this Why? Plausible deniability.

"A previously undetected meteor fell from the sky levelling Islamabad today...."

Thersites said...

...all the more reasons for setting up Newt's "moon base", eh beamish? ;)

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Well, the fact is we've had the ability and technology (but not the willpower) to surround the Earth with orbital kinetic bombardment satellites for decades now.

We deal with the tedious flare ups of sub-American irrationality because we lack the stones to destroy things and people that DO NOT MATTER.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

..after all, our Constitution provides a means for these sub-American entities to become states under our government.

Which is a sight better than trying to have a "country" on one of our bombing ranges.

jez said...

"lack the stones"

Why the plural? Hitler only had one, you know.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

I'm fairly certain, even as progressive leftist as he was, that Joe Kennedy never got as familiar with Hitler's stones as you, Jez. Must be a British thing.

MathewK said...

Sad thing about the west is that the more transparent you make these sorts of things, the more the public will hate you and despise you.

When it comes to terrorism, we in the west really can't handle the truth.