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.

The Deadly Violence, Protests in Libya, Egypt

Libya protests

Written by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Virulent identity politics are swirling across post-revolutionary North Africa, as seen on full display in Libya and Egypt. Some reports now point to a pro-al Qaeda group or other extremist elements as responsible for the attack in Libya, planned in advance and unrelated to the anti-Islam video. The protestors in Libya may have been acting separately. There are still many unknown details.

But the idea that a derogatory and clownish internet video justifies mob violence or murder can only be described as barbaric.

The U.S. government should make crystal clear to its Libyan and Egyptian counterparts that if they wish to have any relationship, let alone a functional relationship, with the United States in the future, we expect the perpetrators of these acts to be brought to justice swiftly and for sufficient measures to be undertaken to ensure they cannot be repeated. Apologies are not enough.

For its part, the United States needs to figure out what went wrong in terms of operational security, and how the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed and the Cairo embassy overrun. The past 10 years have blurred the line between warfighters and diplomats, but this experience is a reminder that the two are still distinct.

Podcast: State of the Union, Bank Fees, Spending Freeze, War on Terror, Gay Equality, Guests: Andisheh Nouraee & Jeff Scott

In a move that caused them to have more fun than normal, Jason and Brett were joined by Andisheh Nouraee and Jeff Scott this week.

Their discussion covered:

Podcast: TSA, Yemen, Filibuster, Ben Nelson, Guests: Jason Cecil, Jimmie Bise PART ONE

Jason and Brett jump into 2010 with a podcast, joined by two guests, Jason Cecil, current Southeast Director for Young Democrats of America and immediate past president of Young Democrats of Georgia, and Jimmie Bise, political and pop culture commentator at The Sundries Shack blog and The Delivery podcast.

The discussion went so well (and long), they split the podcast into two installments, with the second part publishing tomorrow available here.

In the first part, they discuss:

Turmoil in the Middle East Means the US Must Act, Proving Again Non-Interventionism isn’t as Easy as We’d Like to Believe

US Embassy Yemen

Word on the Middle Eastern street is the recent Shiite expansion into Yemen — a gathering of the “death to America” types that led to the resignation of nearly the entire Yemeni leadership — is being funded by our old friends Iran. And next door, of course, Saudi Arabia — most recently in the news for causing the extreme fluctuations in the price of oil — has a new king as former Bush ally King Abdullah has passed away at the age of 90. So what does all this mean for the US and our interests in that never-effing-ending hotbed of turmoil?

Well, given the Houthi Shiites largely successful moves to topple the Yemeni government, and given that Saudi Arabia is mostly Sunni and is a rival of Shiite Iran, reports that Iran may be behind the unrest are plausible. At the very least, this time, we’re sending Biden to offer condolences to “the country more responsible than any other for financing the spread of the type of Islamist terror workplace violence that led to both 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo massacre,” writes Michael Rubin at American Enterprise Institute:

Missing in action: Bush-era antiwar activists have rubber stamped Obama’s foreign interventionism

In 2002, Barack Obama, then an unknown Illinois state senator, gave an impassioned speech at the Federal Plaza in Chicago in which he blasted the Bush administration’s plans for war in Iraq.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” he declared. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” He blistered Bush administration officials, calling the looming war in Iraq one “based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”

Obama’s speech was just one small part of the wave of antiwar activism that swept the country over the next several years. Protesters demanded an end to the war, often accusing President George W. Bush and members of his administration of war crimes and comparing them to Nazis.

By 2005, as American causalities began to mount, public opinion began to shift against the war in Iraq. The souring mood is largely the reason Republicans lost the 2006 mid-term election, handing control of Congress to Democrats and setting the stage for the rise of antiwar presidential candidate.

Obama, who by this time was a U.S. senator, had continued to speak out against the war in Iraq and used his opposition to his advantage. Most of his primary opponents — including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, and John Edwards  — voted for the 2003 authorization for the use of military force against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

American-born terrorist executed without due process

In case you missed the story from Friday, the United States killed one of its own citizens, a New Mexico-born terrorist working with al-Qaeda, in Yemen without due process, a protected right by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution:

President Obama welcomed news of the death of one of the nation’s most-wanted terrorists, cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen on Friday, calling it “another significant milestone” in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates. Speaking just months after he ordered the killing of Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in his compound in Pakistan, Obama said Awlaki took the lead in “planning efforts to murder innocent Americans” as head of external operations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Awlaki was a charismatic Yemeni-American who grew up in New Mexico and was considered the most influential English-speaking cleric preaching global jihad today. He was killed by a U.S. drone and jet strike in a joint operation of the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the Associated Press reported.

“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al-Qaida’s most active affiliate,” Obama said at the retirement ceremony for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. Awlaki’s death is a “tribute” to the U.S. intelligence community, and the efforts of Yemen and its intelligence community, he said.

Reminder: We’re killing innocent civilians in Yemen

Everyone has been mourning the death of British singer Amy Winehouse. While the cause has yet to be officially determined, it is widely speculated that her death was, at least indirectly, the result of her heavy usage of crack cocaine. It can be said then, while still a sad event nonetheless, that her death was hastened by her own recklessness.

The 30 people killed by the United States military drone strikes in Yemen, on the other hand, died by no fault of their own:

The United States and the Yemeni government have stepped up their efforts to target militants, including those Islamists who’ve taken over several cities in recent weeks.

The government said that a U.S. drone was not involved in the attack and that its air forces conducted the raid. The Interior Ministry said on its website that nine fighters were killed and dozens were wounded and that the number of deaths was expected to rise.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials.

Both sources, a security official and a senior security source, didn’t want their names used because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The airstrike occurred in al-Wathee district in Abyan province. One of the sources said more than a dozen people were wounded.

The strike targeted a police station that had been taken over by suspected al Qaeda fighters, the sources said. U.S. drones had been seen flying over the area in recent days, and more attacks were expected, the sources said.

At least seven vehicles and other equipment belonging to the fighters were destroyed.

“The casualty toll is high because fighters were gathered in that area with family members,” said the senior security source in Abyan.

5 out of 6 Ain’t Bad, Right?

Back in February of 2009 I wrote an article about Obama’s War.  At that time, we didn’t know what country it would be, but we do now: Libya.  So, how did I do?

  1. Percieved threat where there is no actual threat.  Commit an invasion where no harm has been done to us directly.  Yep
  2. Enforce UN resolutions.  Yep
  3. To remove a dictator.  Yep
  4. Establish/Spread democracy.  Yep
  5. Mercantilism.  (Secure oil or other natural resources) Yep
  6. False flag event.  Nope
One point about number 3.  If the President says we’re not going to remove him directly, we are in the process of removing him indirectly, by providing cover (no-fly zone) for the rebels.  We could care less about the humanitarian disaster.  All you have to do is look at Syria and Yemen to see the governments there murdering their protestors.

5 out of 6 ain’t bad, right?

When is enough actually enough

So.  We find ourselves smack dab in the middle of yet another war.  Damn, we’re good at that, aren’t we?  This time, we’re doing it at the behest of the United Nations, which is operating under a new principle called “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) that the UN is using to justify involvement in Libya.  It sounds great and very humanitarian and all that, but at what point does it get to be to much?

Bruce McQuain at Hot Air, asks:

Do we intervene in Sudan or the Congo?  Ivory Coast?  And if not, why not?  None of them, like Libya, put our core national interests at stake.  But all certainly fit the new R2P principle.  How about Bahrain and Yemen?  Nepal?

Instead, what we see here is precisely what the left has decried for years – the US along with others who can afford it and are willing to do it –agreeing to police the world.  However, in this case, it would be at the behest of the UN.  We are agreeing that the UN can determine when and where we commit our military forces simply by invoking this principle.  Invoke R2P and, by our precedent in Libya, we agree to respond.

This is far and away different than case by case agreements among member nations to intervene with peace keeping troops in troubled areas around the world.  This is a “principle” that Moon says is a “new international security and human rights norm” apparently is interpreted as a “right” to intervene with military force.

Funny – I don’t remember us agreeing to this “new norm”, do you?  Did we negotiate and sign a treaty saying all of this?  Or did we just hand over our power to make sovereign decisions concerning the use of our military to a world body?

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