Let’s try to cut through all the political crap. Forget any opinions of Obama or Bush. Lay aside party loyalty and ideology. Trying to stick with principles, and what’s right for the protection and defense of the United States, I offer the following:
- Are drones just one more class of lethal weapon in our national arsenal? Yes, but they also have unique benefits and advantages over more conventional weapons: greater accuracy, less collateral loss of innocents, greater stealth, easier deployment, greater flexibility, less expense, and most importantly, almost no risk of casualty to U.S. soldiers.
- Does the Commander-in-Chief have authority to use such weapons? Yes, as with any weapon of war, when engaged in legitimate warfare as may be decreed by Congress or under the presidential War Powers Resolution.
- Does the War Powers Resolution really give this authority? Certainly debatable, not least because of its potential for abuse, but I believe it does. Our recourse against such abuse is, as always, to vote or impeach the President from office.
- Is the “war on terror” legitimate? Yes, in my opinion. No, for some others.
- Who decides legitimacy? Our constitutionally empowered elected leaders, whether or not any of us agree with their decision. We cede that decision with our vote.
- Beyond legal notions of legitimate, is the “war on terror” morally justified? Yes, in my opinion. No, for some others. We’ve been told that both Obama and Bush understand the philosophical concepts of a “just war” as presented, for example, in the astute moral reflections of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Both Presidents are said to have studied them, among other great thinkers on the subject. But whether or not that’s true, regardless if their conclusions conform to our own views, we, again, cede that moral justification with our vote.
- Are drones instruments of assassination? Yes, meaning that their intentionally stealthy use denies the target any chance for surrender.
- Is assassination a legitimate tactic of war? Yes, in my opinion. No, to some others. I judge it legitimate when the target is a sworn enemy of the U.S. with the wherewithal to plan, direct and/or conduct terrorist attacks, and has either already done so or is reasonably expected to do so.
- Is assassination of a U.S. citizen legitimate? I think this is by far the thorniest issue. Yes, if they meet the same criteria above, but only, I believe, if they are on foreign soil and cannot be captured. The primary goal should be to bring a U.S. citizen terrorist to trial, in the U.S., under charge of treason, as provided for in our Constitution.
This post heavily abbreviates my thoughts and the profound implications of the subject. It’s intended to stimulate, not settle, the issues. And I’m fed up with much of the politicized dialogue of the media.
The questions raised by the issue of drones and, moreover, of assassination, deal with deeply important moral principles and grave ethical problems. They deserve thoughtful consideration and cogent debate by Americans. It’s fair for citizens as well as legislators to examine if new law or revision of the extant War Powers Resolution is in order. This new technology of warfare may indeed cry out for a new or different ethical framework.
But politics and personal opinions of any particular President have no place in such discussions. In fact, they will only guarantee a bad outcome. Frankly, we can’t afford bad outcomes when it comes to terrorism.
I’ve aired my own thoughts. How about you?