Are Drones Defensible? Ctd

Jun 19 2012 @ 2:15pm

Greenwald goes another round:

The constant assumption in American political discourse is that there are so very many people in the world eager to attack the U.S. — The Terrorists — but the question of why this is so is simply never asked (actually, I ask that question often, but aside from patent propagandistic pap (they hate us for our Freedom) it’s rarely answered).

In response to my argument over the last two days that ongoing U.S. aggression is making a Terrorist attack more rather than less likely, Sullivan rhetorically asked: “is he not living on the same planet I am?” Actually, I’m not: I’m living on the same planet as most of the people on Earth, who share these views and reject Sullivan’s; I’m living on the same planet as Ibrahim Mothana, who sees these truths in his daily life; I’m living on the same planet as the mountain of empirical evidence that explains why there are so many people eager to bring violence to the U.S. (as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Finland, or Brazil, or Japan, or Portugal, or China).

Glenn makes some serious points about blowback from civilian deaths, especially when our own government keeps changing its statements on them. I acknowledged that in my original post in this conversation. It's particularly worrying in Yemen, where our drone attacks seem to be radicalizing the populace, as well as taking out Jihadist terrorists. Don Rumsfeld's infamous remark that he worried we were creating more Jihadists than we were killing is completely salient here. But here's a sentence I would love to see Glenn write:

I do not envy President Obama having to figure out how to respond.

There is no acknowledgment in Glenn's posts of any balancing of interests here, or of any terror threat that cannot be blamed on the American victims.

We know that we were attacked on 9/11 – and my apologies to Glenn but it killed thousands of innocent civilians and was designed only to kill innocent civilians – by a gang reared in training camps in Afghanistan. So we have proof of principle that allowing such camps to form and to organize is to risk the lives of Americans. Some risk is inevitable. But a responsible president cannot simply ignore that risk altogether. He is the commander-in-chief. Preventing his own citizens from being murdered within the Constitution is part of his job description.

Counter-insurgency is a far more expensive, and far more protracted and thereby, for the same reasons Glenn elucidates, likely to be counter-productive. Counter-terrorism by aerial intelligence and drone strikes is far more effective in terms of results and costs. If you compare the number of civilians killed under US occupation in Iraq, there really is no comparison at all. We're talking hundreds versus a hundred thousand. And I for one am relieved that al Qaeda in Af-Pak has been decimated, relieved that the US has been free of Jihadist mass murder for the past decade, happy that bin Laden is at the bottom of some distant ocean so that he cannot murder again.

But Glenn is right that we should not get intoxicated by this tool. It can backfire badly. But the answer to that is not a view that Jihadism is solely a creation of the US. It is in part, but it is also a modern form of religious fundamentalism annexed to brutal violence and barbarism. In other words, it's both. Which makes this a real debate. I'd say that the Obama administration has done a remarkable job on offense against terror, but needs to be more transparent and more honest and more selective in its drone strikes. There is a balance to be struck. And in striking that balance, I'm glad Glenn is out there prodding Washington to see past its own hall of mirrors.