The Corner

On Drones

In the midst of a longer (and devastating) post about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jim Geraghty asks: ”So do we on the right have any hesitation about our current policy of drone strikes overseas?”

It seems to me that the answer is a qualified yes for some, a qualified no for others on the right. Still, not speaking for anyone but myself, I have some reservations. Some line up with the libertarian and left critiques. I would like this “kill list” thing a bit more clarified and codified in law after a meaningful democratic debate, particularly when it comes to U.S.-citizens-turned-terrorists. But in principle, killing terrorists this way in an asymmetrical war doesn’t bother me much. That said, I think many on the right are a little too glib about what drone strikes mean for the U.S. image abroad, particularly in some of the countries where we’re conducting them.

Also, I think some of Obama’s apologists on the drone strikes don’t appreciate how cynical his reliance on them is. He’s killing terrorists with such abandon is in no small part because he’s eager to avoid trying them, putting them in Gitmo or letting them be interrogated. Liberalism has found itself celebrating a president who plucks names off a “kill list” because it finds humane prison conditions, military tribunals, or tough interrogations of jihadi terrorists to be morally offensive. That is weird.

Relatedly, I think my AEI and sometime NRO colleague Marc Thiessen and others are right to note that the policy of using drones is potentially counter-productive because it removes intelligence assets from the board. A terrorist killed cannot be interrogated and, often, his documents, phone, computer, etc. cannot be seized. This is making us less informed about our enemies. 

Again, surgically killing terrorists where they live is totally legitimate when necessary in my book. But it comes at a price diplomatically and strategically. 


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