Thursday, March 07, 2013

It's The War On Terror, Stupid!

Rand Paul did a good thing last night by filibustering on the subject of killing Americans on American soil by drones. It may open up the discussion. Unfortunately…well, there are a number of unfortunate aspects.

Helmut and I have discussed writing a series on the issues raised by drones. Unfortunately, there are many ways to look at them, and the discussion is freqently muddled by conflation of those aspects.

There’s a creepy, science-fiction feeling about drones. Impersonal, death from the sky, or maybe only surveillance. If that comes out to “only” for you.

Drones are being used, covertly, to pursue US goals in Pakistan and other countries. The goals of the action are covert or poorly defined.

Drones are the newest weapon of war, one more step in the attempt to remove participants from danger while wreaking death on the other side.

Paul’s filibuster was aimed at a single, narrow question: can the President decide to kill Americans on American soil?  Unfortunately, Rand Paul is a racist who holds the adolescent-boy fantasy of Libertarianism, which puts him on the Other Side from the liberals who have mostly been the ones complaining about the uses of drones. Being against drones puts him on the Other Side from conservatives who are invested in the War on Terror. So he is being excoriated for all that today on my Twitter feed.

There have been a great many misuses of federal power in the name of the War on Terror, from humiliation by the TSA as a requirement for air travel through torture at black sites and the continuing detention of prisoners at Guantanamo to various aspects of drone warfare. It’s time to stop all this and start acting like the great nation we would like to think we are.

The question of whether Americans can be killed on American soil is part of that, a very small part, with the wrong slant: but what if they target meeee? Get beyond that, kids. There are more important issues here, like what kind of country you want to live in. Figure that out, and the meeee question goes away. Or becomes something you have agreed to live with, depending on your answer.

There are a ton of issues about drones that need to be considered, but until we decide we want to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we’re not going to get any useful answers.


Steve Skutnik said...

@Cheryl: I get your point about this being an overly-narrow focus on what is arguably a quite broad (and frankly, under-considered) issue of what checks are put into place on federal power, particularly as they pertain to terrorism.

However, I will offer this rejoinder: Outside of a narrow band of liberals and libertarians, the issue has seen scant attention. Having unchecked authority to unleash lethal force on foreigners - regardless of the "collateral damage" - doesn't seem to have a whole lot of cache with the public.

On the other hand, killing American citizens without trial - which has already happened (albeit not on U.S. soil) is something which is already happening and which the administration has pretty much asserted that they see little need for outside review. (And, as is the inevitable result of politics, we now have a party which would ostensibly be opposed to these measures suspiciously silent on the matter).

So, inevitably we have something like Sen. Paul; while his objection is couched narrowly, it is also sufficiently outrageous to provoke an actual discussion. Not the broad discussion needed, but at least some national discussion which has until now been marginalized to the political fringe.

Meanwhile, I'll say that casually throwing out the "racist, adolescent boy fantasy of Libertarianism" charge doesn't exactly help that issue, any.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Hi Steve -

As long as the discussion is confined to "but what about meeeee" it won't have the effect that you and I desire. At best, it will result in band-aids that will come off in the next hard fight. More likely it will trivialize the discussion. So I hope to broaden it with this post, and perhaps inspire others to make these points.

I applied the adjective "racist" to Rand Paul, not to libertarianism, although Paul has used his libertarianism in the service of his racism: shop owners should be able to choose their customers.

Libertarianism works if you are a young, healthy, reasonably financially secure male. For the rest of us, not so much. There are a number of damaging ideas running around that haven't received the scorn they deserve. On days like today, I'm willing to dish out some of that.

Cheryl Rofer said...

This is why it's a bad idea to frame the question too narrowly. Too easy to give an answer that ends the conversation.