Based on some of my discussions with people who tend to support U.S. foreign policy in general and the drone policy in particular, there seems to be a lack of empathy for those who have been victims of errant bombs (I’m told these people “hate us for our freedoms”). I think sometimes we Americans have no idea what it must be like to live anywhere in the third world as opposed to a superpower. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live any place the U.S. is hunting terrorists with soldiers or drones. Would I be worried that my friends or family might be killed by mistake?
This isn’t to say that the U.S. should not hunt terrorists, drones or otherwise, but I do think it’s time for a serious debate about when and how drones should be used. The drones in of themselves are not the problem, it’s the drone policy. What is the cost/benefit of using drones in targeting these people? Can this be done without harming innocent bystanders? Are drones being used when less destructive means are available? Is this policy counterproductive in “winning the hearts and minds” of people who might otherwise fight against Islamic fundamentalists?
The video clip below is from the testimony of one individual who has experienced the reality of U.S. drone policy first hand. Despite this, Farea al-Muslimi is otherwise grateful for his experiences with America, Americans, and American generosity. His heart and mind seems to be on the side of America. His testimony offers a perspective we would all do well to consider when thinking about these questions.
The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.”
Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?
After hours of debate yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along strict party lines, with a 14-11 vote. Hagel is expected to narrowly be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate as soon as Minority Ranking Member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says all holds placed on the nomination are cleared. While reasons such as financial disclosure and – in the case of Senator Graham - information on Benghazi have been given for holding Hagel’s nomination, such holds are essentially due to Hagel’s heterodoxy on foreign policy.
President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new. The President continued the same leftist rhetoric he used during his inaugural address, calling for even more spending and government. As Jason wrote, he absurdly claimed that he has CUT spending, attacked the sequestration plan that he himself proposed, and called for an increase in the minimum wage would would prove disastrous to job creation. In short, it was more of the same - big government, high taxes, and spending money we don’t have.
The official Republican response was fairly lackluster. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker, but his speech was big on platitudes and slogans and small on substance. The real response came from Senator Rand Paul. It’s no secret that Senator Paul is a favorite of mine and of many libertarian-leaning folks, so there was much anticipation that he would offer a clear vision apart from both Obama and Rubio. For the most part, he did just that.
To begin, Paul went strongly after the President and laid out a clear idea of what he believes America is really all about:
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director. All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.
The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel. The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization. When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.
Written by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon are mercifully over. His wobbly performance earned derision among neoconservatives, but he responded as they intended to an interrogation that was all about politics, not policy.
As I have noted before, Hagel is under fire because he disputed neoconservative nostrums to speak unpleasant truths to the Republican Party. He was an orthodox conservative, including on foreign policy. However, he was an Eisenhower, not a Dubya, Republican: Hagel criticized the debacle in Iraq, urged negotiation to forestall Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and backed reductions in today’s bloated military budget. General turned President Dwight Eisenhower could not have put it better.
Over the past few weeks, with the Second Inauguration of Barack Obama as a backdrop, a mostly-ignored crisis has been unfolding in North Africa. As President Obama declared at his inauguration that “a decade of warfare is ending,” the United States began aiding France with their bombing campaign in Mali, to little fanfare, fulfilling President Obama’s actual foreign policy goal: to maintain an American global presence, with little accountability here or abroad.
Meanwhile, over the inaugural weekend, to the north of Mali in neighboring Algeria, a hostage crisis at a British Petroleum natural gas plant ended violently; at the time of this writing, 37 hostages were killed, 3 of which were American. Details are still unclear, and the situation is sensitive, but the mind recalls another inaugural hostage crisis 32 years ago with a happier ending.
The events in Algeria and Mali are intrinsically linked, not just by the actors therein, but by the actions which spurred them. To properly confront the crisis at hand, we must also confront our contributions to the crisis, for as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Yesterday, I read an article from the Council on Foreign Relations called “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies.” The opening paragraph read:
Over the last ten years, drones have become a critical tool in the war against terrorist and militant organizations worldwide. Their advantages over other weapons and intelligence systems are well known. They can silently observe an individual, group, or location for hours on end, but take immediate action should a strike opportunity become available—all without putting a pilot at risk. This combination of capabilities is unique and has allowed the United States to decimate the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and disrupt the activities of many other militant groups.
The paragraph seems to be a wholehearted endorsement of drones. But everyone knows what happens when you start peeling the layers of an onion. What appear to be reasons for drone strikes also happen to be reasons against them.
With the “fiscal cliff” behind us, it’s important to remember that in less than two months, the Congress will be dealing with another manufactured crisis: The budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act known as “sequestration.” The Department of Defense will bear 41% of the prescribed cuts, eliminating an additional $492 billion over 10 years. Although entitlement spending will also be on the table, the initial fight will be over cuts to the Defense budget.
A new study by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation concludes that the defense budget cuts cannot be taken without altering our overall defense strategy, and that “the department should modify defense strategy to fit the new resource constraints and prepare its course of action sooner rather than later.”
The authors highlight three alternative strategies, which anyone interested in this topic should read and consider. An accompanying article by the authors states, “Reductions of the magnitude implied by sequestration—some $500 billion over the coming decade—cannot be accommodated without a re-examination of current defense strategy.”
Before Christmas, amid the drama of the fiscal cliff, and before the horrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that our government would recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country’s people, stating:
“The Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, and is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”