Are Drones Defensible? Ctd

Jun 13 2012 @ 12:21pm

Obama_and_Biden_await_updates_on_bin_Laden

I wrote that the position Greenwald and Friedersdorf hold against the the drone campaign "kind of assumes 9/11 didn’t happen or couldn’t happen again, and dismisses far too glibly the president’s actual responsibility as commander-in-chief to counter these acts of mass terror." Greenwald counters:

I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

This passage is so overwrought it barely merits a response. Now George Packer and I are the real reasons for 9/11 or 7/7 or the brutal mass murders we just saw conducted by Islamists in Iraq? And the idea that I have "spent a decade" "cheering for American violence" is, well, ridiculous. For the last nine years, I have been a brutal critic of policies I once cheered on, and campaigned furiously against the pure, protracted violence of torture, which I always opposed. Ditto the notion that Bush = Obama or that Obama = Bush in the war on Jihadist terrorism. Not true, by a mile. Digby seconds Greenwald:

A great nation would not delude itself into believing that it can kill its way to security. And that's what this is — a violent version of security theater where we all feel soothed that the president is "taking out", one by one, all the foreigners who want to hurt us. And it's as ridiculous today as it was five years ago. Killing individuals, some bad I'm sure, along with innocents and lowly hangers-on cannot fix this problem.

In a later post Greenwald points out how unpopular drones are in other parts of the world. And that is a worry, as I wrote in my original post. But it seems to me that Glenn sees no difference between invading and occupying whole countries with the attendant blowback and infinitely larger civilian casualties, mistakes and ill-will, alongside a program of torture for prisoners (Bush) and a successful exit from Iraq and an attempt to defeat al Qaeda more surgically and precisely in its original heartland, while stopping torture and by that and other means dramatically improving intelligence (Obama).

I agree – how could one not? – that the drone program can backfire. Which is why I said it has to be conducted with extreme care. But the notion that the fundamental reason the US is now targeted simply because we defended ourselves from a brutal attack (and aims for more attacks) seems far too simplistic to me. Yes, we always have to worry about stirring more violence in defending ourselves from violence. But we also have to worry about the violence directed at us. There is a distinction between the motives of an arsonist and the errors of a fire-fighter.

And Digby has the same delusion: killing people doesn't win wars, she says. She would have opposed the Abottabad raid? Would Glenn? If Glenn is going to accuse me of being an imperialist, it seems to me he should be prepared to say he would not have killed bin Laden. The blowback in Pakistan has been intense. By Glenn's argument, bin Laden should still be sitting in his room, planning new assassinations and terror attacks. Does he think it's even halfway credible for any American president to have contented himself with that? Or is he not living on the same planet I am?