There is something about drones that is dominating the American psyche. Everywhere I look I see people discussing them, with emotions ranging anywhere from concern to mouth-foaming outrage. I don't understand why the fixation is on the drone itself.
When America first got into war in the Middle East (the most recent ones - Afghanistan and Iraq), and we started learning about soldiers dying and being maimed, we thought "this is not the proper approach". This was like trying to hit a fly with a baseball bat. Instead of a full-scale invasion of a sovereign country, we should be using covert operations and targeted strikes. That would mean less cost, less soldiers dying, and less money and power flowing to private contractors that were profiteering from the wars.
To some extent, that is what has happened. With the use of surveillance drones, we can find the targets, then send in the strike drones to "eliminate the target" (how's that
for a euphemism?). So what's the problem? Occasionally, there is "collateral damage", that is - an innocent civilian, or - worse - a child gets killed, either because of bad intelligence or a change in position of people on the ground. That is certainly a terrible thing for the victims and their families when it happens, and worrisome for those who live where cells of al-Qaeda do.
One of those killed was an American who renounced the country of his birth and joined up with al-Qaeda to fight against us, In my mind, he lost his right to protection of the Constitution when he took up arms against us. During the American Civil War, many southern Americans were killed by U.S troops when they decided to take up arms against the U.S. How is this any different?
Within our borders, we have law enforcement in place to protect us. In some cases, criminals get killed by police. In most cases, that is because the public or the police are in imminent danger, and potentially deadly force needs to be used to prevent further tragedy. This is exactly the same thing that Eric Holder refers to when discussing using deadly force against Americans inside of America.
Except - it seems like a lot of American's don't get that. When he made his statement that he couldn't rule out a drone strike inside the U.S.
, the uproar was immediate:
Attorney General Eric Holder is not entirely ruling out a scenario under which a drone strike would be ordered against Americans on U.S. soil, but says it has never been done previously and he could only see it being considered in an extraordinary circumstance.
He began to winnow the list of those possible extraordinary circumstances Wednesday. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Holder whether he believed it would be constitutional to target an American terror suspect "sitting at a cafe" if the suspect didn't pose an imminent threat.
"No," Holder replied.
But he also said the government has no intention of carrying out drone strikes inside the United States. Echoing what he said in a letter to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, he called the possibility of domestic drone strikes "entirely hypothetical."
Holder said a potential scenario might involve a president ordering such action "to protect the homeland" in a case like the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington or the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
But he said the administration rejects the use of military force where law enforcement authorities provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.
In other words - let the police and FBI handle it like they always have, and use military force only when there's no other option to prevent massive loss to life and property. Can you imagine the outrage if we had another strike like 9/11 from within the U.S., and it was discovered that it could have been prevented had the President ordered that a military strike be used? What if fighter jets (or a drone) had shot down one of the planes before it had hit one of the WTC towers?
Rand Paul held the Senate floor for hours last week going on and on about drone strikes in the U.S. (rather than attend the hearings where Holder was answering questions about those things about which he was railing). The Attorney General was compelled to release a statement
that further clarified that, no - we are not going to kill innocent Americans.
I am still genuinely confused as to why the military hardware seems to be the main concern. Why are drones the main focus? Anything a drone can do was already being done by helicopters and/or planes. Drones can do them, though, for cheaper, using less fuel, and eliminate danger to the pilot. Is that the problem? Do they think that less risk to military personnel means taking greater or bolder risks, or a blatant disregard to consequences? Do Americans want to feel like if they shoot their guns at an aircraft, they want to be able to hit a living thing?
Have they watched too many Terminator movies?
Perhaps it's the notion that we're being watched by drones, being spied on. Yet everyday, we are in front of cameras all the time. Traffic cameras, security cameras in and on stores, at the ATM. Then there's the GPS in our phones, the cookies on our computers, and our IP addresses. All of these combine to lessen our privacy (this doesn't include all the information we willingly divulge on Facebook, etc.). So I think that argument doesn't wash. The only way we have to truly be anonymous is to go off the grid entirely, something most of us are unwilling to do.
But that leads back to my original question: When it comes to deadly force being applied by the government, what does it matter what device they are using to apply it? Making the hardware the focus of the discussion distracts from the focus of what's really important - the policy.