Yesterday I wrote about Obama’s drone campaign. Because the whole point of my piece was to note that the public is generally not paying attention, I wasn’t surprised when my post also failed to ignite much debate.
Sadly, the few responses and emails I did receive largely (and wrongly) assumed that I was being critical of Obama — that I think drones are inherently bad.
Actually, I was praising Obama for his political perception and adeptness at public relations. My criticism was reserved for we the people. We are the ones who become outraged only when wars become a nuisance to us. Obama (perhaps like Reagan?) realized that in the wake of a messy war, the public loses its stomach for additional overt warfare. But that doesn’t mean presidents can’t find other — smarter? — ways to get the job done.
In the case of Obama, modern technology gives him options.
Andrew Sullivan and others have engaged in a pretty heated debate over this subject. Sullivan, interestingly, makes a very compelling case for why President Obama is doing the right thing. We live in a world where terrorists want to kill us. I don’t necessarily disagree.
On the other hand, this gets complicated. What about the innocent civilians who are collateral damage? Are we radicalizing their friends and neighbors? Maybe we factor that in — and still come to the conclusion that even if we are, it’s worth it?
There are many questions to be asked and answered. For example, what about congressional approval? Should President Obama have sole discretion over who goes on the “kill list”? And what about the slippery slope argument — what about the people I’ve been battling on this blog who want to use Obama’s success abroad as an excuse to put drones in America?
Again, it might very well be that we as a society decide that this is the right way to go — that the pros outweigh the cons. I’m very open to the idea that, yes, there are some downsides, but this is a very effective way to kill Al Qaeda members without putting American lives in danger.
That isn’t an absurd possibility. But shouldn’t we have that national conversation? — or have we simply been informed that this is the new normal?