Conor Friedersdorf

Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?

Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries.  Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.

Lies My History Teacher Told Me About the War on Terror

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf gives us a disturbing glimpse of what American schoolchildren are being taught about the War on Terror, in the form of excerpts from a widely-used high school history textbook. The whole piece is a disturbing catalog of hilarious propaganda presented as fact to kids who are increasingly too young to remember much about the immediate aftermath the 9/11 attacks, but  I figured I’d focus on the paragraph dealing with the Patriot Act, which manages to get a truly impressive number of things wrong in a short space.

The President also asked Congress to pass legislation to help law enforcement agencies track down terrorist suspects. Drafting the legislation took time. Congress had to balance Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure with the need to increase security.

Occupy the Republican Party: YES

Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting idea: instead of occupying Zucotti Park, disgruntled liberals and democrats should Occupy the Republican Party:

What if the left registered its discontent with Obama and its disgust for the GOP frontrunners by registering Republican? It would only matter during primary season. And what a message they could send! One long-shot Republican candidate, Gary Johnson, visited Zuccotti Park, affirms that Wall Street banks got unseemly favors, wants to legalize marijuana, opposed the Iraq War, favors bringing the troops home, and even wants abortion to stay legal. Another, Buddy Roemer, has made the centerpiece of his campaign “fighting the corrupting influences in Wall Street and Washington, ending favors to big donors and the misuse of federal funds to benefit major corporations.” Though the typical Democrat would disagree with both of them on various issues, they’d surely prefer either to Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Santorum; elevating either would send a powerful message on several of the most important issues that has the left upset; and like all quixotic stunts worth trying, there is a huge upside and no downside.

Think about it.

Obama’s NSA completely missed the rise of Islamic militants in Iraq

Americans have been endlessly told by President Barack Obama, intelligence officials, and a number of politicians from both parties that the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance programs are absolutely necessary to protect the United States’ from acts of terrorism both in the homeland and abroad. Well, that’s the talking point, at least.

But the deteriorating situation in Iraq, where brutal Islamic militants taken control of swaths of the country, seemingly unnoticed by the Obama administration until a couple of weeks ago. That’s something Conor Friedersdorf mentioned yesterday over at The Atlantic:

Without presuming to speak for any individual, the typical “NSA-hater” would love nothing more than for the NSA to focus its intelligence capabilities on war zones where anti-American fighters plausibly threaten the lives of soldiers or diplomatic personnel, and away from Angela Merkel and every cell-phone call Americans make. Spying on ISIS, however intrusively, is fine by me.

That said, events in Iraq seem to have taken us by surprise, despite the fact that the NSA is totally unencumbered, both legally and politically, in the intelligence it can gather there. And even if the seeming surprise is an illusion, even if the NSA anticipated the fall of cities to Islamic militants, knowing didn’t stop it. That isn’t a knock on the NSA. It’s a statement about the limits of signals intelligence. The NSA didn’t stop the underwear bomber or the Times Square bomber or the shoe bomber either. That’s not a knock on the NSA. They can’t know everything. And if they could, that would be a lot more dangerous than terrorism.

Conor Friedersdorf explains why he’s not voting for Obama

If you don’t read anything else today, you need to check out Conor Friedersdorf’s explanation of why he refuses to vote for Barack Obama in November:

I find Obama likable when I see him on TV. He is a caring husband and father, a thoughtful speaker, and possessed of an inspirational biography. On stage, as he smiles into the camera, using words to evoke some of the best sentiments within us, it’s hard to believe certain facts about him:

Conor Friedersdorf takes down arguments for a military draft

There hasn’t been a lot of outrage, at least from what I’ve read, from the right or left on Thomas Ricks recent call to bring back the military draft. Perhaps the story just isn’t out there enough for people to take notice, or maybe it’s because the anti-draft sentiment is limited in nature.

Ricks’ premise is much like that of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who has introduced “national service” legislation in each of the last several Congresses, is that in order to prevent war, the federal government must force able adults out of high school to serve in the military. This would include the children of politicians and the wealthy. Working to alter the United States incredibly misguided foreign policy is apparently not enough, the federal government must DRAFT ALL THE KIDS!

As I explained yesterday, this is a terrible idea, but over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf completely tears apart Ricks’ arguments, though from a practical perspective, better than anyone else who has written on the subject:

Let me get this straight. Presuming that these 18 months of conscription don’t affect college plans, except to delay them for two years, its effect will basically be to shift two years of a person’s working life from whatever they spend their career doing to menial labor compensated at below market rates (sorry, everyone who presently does those jobs to feed their families!).

Intimidation of conservative bloggers

There has been some very scary things going on lately as more bloggers take on the story of Brett Kimberlin. Our own Kevin Boyd reported on this last Friday, pointing out the ties Kimberlin has with the State Department, a different angle that most have taken when exposing the convicted bomber.

But Conor Friedersdorf notes that some conservative bloggers willing to report on Kimberlin have been harassed thanks to a new phenomenon called “SWATing,” which has put people in very real danger:

In recent days, the conservative blogosphere has been abuzz about an apparently coordinated attempt to intimidate some of its own. Patrick “Patterico” Frey, an L.A. area blogger, Erick Erickson of Red State, and Robert Stacy McCain, a conservative journalist based near Washington, D.C., all report being subject to threats and harassment as a result of posts they’ve written.

Andrew Sullivan: Tea Party opposes Obama because he’s black

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan, a conservative turned liberal, wrote a post criticising the Tea Party movement for standing by while George W. Bush broke the bank only to protest Barack Obama for his spending measures. According to Sullivan, this isn’t based on disagreement with Obama for his big spending ways, rather the fact that he is black:

[T[he Tea Party, utterly indifferent to massive spending in good times by a Republican, had a conniption at a black Democrat’s modest measures to limit the worst downturn since the 1930s. Conniption isn’t really he right word: this was a cultural and political panic in the face of a president who was advocating what were only recently Republican policies: tax cuts, Romneycare on a national level, cap-and-trade, a W-style immigration reform, and a relentless war on Jihadism. They reached back to a time, when there were only three kinds of Americans - native, white and slaves. They even wore powdered wigs.

While I don’t necessarily disagree that conservative opposition to immigration reform is based on more than public policy, I completely disagree that the Tea Party movement opposes Obama’s policies just because he is black.

I don’t disagree that Bush was a fiscal nightmare, and it’s my belief that he set the Republican Party back several years. And shortly after the Tea Party movement started in early 2009, I criticized them for not calling out Bush’s spending spree.

Rubio: Bush “did a fantasic job” as president

If you listen to Sean Hannity and others in the conservative movement, it’s clear that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is their pick to serve as Mitt Romney’s running mate this fall. They say that he offers a contrast to Romney that will bring a needed balance and excitement to the ticket to help motivate Republicans to go to the polls this fall.

It may be true that Rubio is much more conservative than Romney, but there should be some hesitation on the part of conservatives due to recent comments by Rubio where he said that George W. Bush “did a fantastic job” as president.

I’m not naive enough to believe that Bush isn’t a hero to conservatives for various reasons, let alone that Barack Obama, who frequently blames his predecessor for many of his own failures, makes that easy to do. But from a fiscal perspective, Bush’s presidency was a disaster, and that isn’t limited to the 2008 financial crisis. While some would defend Bush’s big spending as a necessity due to the so-called “war on terror,” Veronique de Rugy noted in her analysis on spending under Bush, domestic spending alone went up by more than 20% in his first term. He expanded Medicare, adding more in unfunded liabilities to the already unsustainable government-run health insurance program.

Conor Friedersdorf also explains some of the problems with the statement made by Rubio in context of, not just fiscal issues, but also foreign policy:

Some pundits already dismissing a possible Ron Paul win in Iowa

With Gingrich falling in the polls, the very real prospect of Ron Paul winning the Iowa caucus has some, including Chris Wallace of Fox News, saying that it will cheapen its significance. None of that is to say he will win, but it’s clear that there is an element in Republican politics that is going to downplay Paul’s impact in the race.

Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf explains that downplaying Paul and his views — as so many, including the National Review, are trying to do — is a mistake:

Dismissing the burgeoning number of Americans on the right who are suspicious of interventionism and hawkishness is intellectually suspect and unwise. A majority of Republicans now think that the Iraq War was a mistake. The general non-interventionist impulse on the right has never completely gone away. Paul is by no means the ideal vehicle for non-interventionism. But insofar as he plays a significant role in the GOP primary, it will be partly due to the fact that the legitimate concerns he articulates are taken up by no other viable candidate. One needn’t be an ardent Paul supporter to suspect that National Review would rather that no viable GOP candidate spoke up to challenge the hawkish impulses on the elite right .


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