Drones for Dummies

I despise Charles Krauthammer’s reflexive and mindless bashing of the President — he’s bright enough to know that much of what he says is pure BS.  But I’m with Charles 110% on the drone war.  I’m just sorry that he manages to justify Obama’s policy without giving Obama any credit for following it.

From “In defense of Obama’s drone war,” WaPo:

“1. By what right does the president order the killing by drone of enemies abroad? What criteria justify assassination?

“Answer: (a) imminent threat, under the doctrine of self-defense, and (b) affiliation with al-Qaeda, under the laws of war.

“Imminent threat is obvious. If we know a freelance jihadist cell in Yemen is actively plotting an attack, we don’t have to wait until after the fact. Elementary self-defense justifies attacking first.

“Al-Qaeda is a different matter. We are in a mutual state of war. Osama bin Laden issued his fatwa declaring war on the United States in 1996; we reciprocated three days after 9/11 with Congress’s Authorization for Use of Military Force — against al-Qaeda and those who harbor and abet it.

“Regarding al-Qaeda, therefore, imminence is not required. Its members are legitimate targets, day or night, awake or asleep. Nothing new here. In World War II, we bombed German and Japanese barracks without hesitation.

“2. But Awlaki was no ordinary enemy. He was a U.S. citizen. By what right does the president order the killing by drone of an American? Where’s the due process?

“Answer: Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war — no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in-arms.

“3. Who has the authority to decide life-and-death targeting?

“In war, the ultimate authority is always the commander in chief and those in the lawful chain of command to whom he has delegated such authority.

“This looks troubling. Obama sitting alone in the Oval Office deciding which individuals to kill. But how is that different from Lyndon Johnson sitting in his office choosing bombing targets in North Vietnam?

“Moreover, we firebombed entire cities in World War II. Who chose? Commanders under the ultimate authority of the president. No judicial review, no outside legislative committee, no secret court, no authority above the president.

“Okay, you say. But today’s war is entirely different: no front line, no end in sight.

“So what? It’s the jihadists who decided to make the world a battlefield and to wage war in perpetuity. Until they abandon the field, what choice do we have but to carry the fight to them?”

I Wish Everyone Would Read Krugman Today

From “The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“We are not having a debt crisis.

“It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

“No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.

“Before I talk about that reality, a word about the current state of budget ‘negotiations.’

“Why the scare quotes? Because these aren’t normal negotiations in which each side presents specific proposals, and horse-trading proceeds until the two sides converge. By all accounts, Republicans have, so far, offered almost no specifics.

 “In effect, Republicans are saying to President Obama, ‘Come up with something that will make us happy.’

“Why won’t the Republicans get specific? Because they don’t know how. The truth is that, when it comes to spending, they’ve been faking it all along — not just in this election, but for decades.

“Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. From the beginning, however, these ideologues have had a big problem: The programs they want to kill are very popular. Americans may nod their heads when you attack big government in the abstract, but they strongly support Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid. So what’s a radical to do?

“The answer, for a long time, has involved two strategies. One is ‘starve the beast,’ the idea of using tax cuts to reduce government revenue, then using the resulting lack of funds to force cuts in popular social programs.

“Arguably more important in conservative thinking, however, was the notion that the G.O.P. could exploit other sources of strength — white resentment, working-class dislike of social change, tough talk on national security — to build overwhelming political dominance, at which point the dismantling of the welfare state could proceed freely.

“O.K., you see the problem: Democrats didn’t go along with the program, and refused to give up. Worse, from the Republican point of view, all of their party’s sources of strength have turned into weaknesses. Democratic dominance among Hispanics has overshadowed Republican dominance among southern whites; women’s rights have trumped the politics of abortion and antigay sentiment; and guess who finally did get Osama bin Laden.

“It’s a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream.

Petraeus at Congress

Gen. Petraeus testified for about four hours today to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in closed session.

He told them what we already know, that the Benghazi attacks on our Consulate and our CIA building on 9/11 were terrorist attacks by a local extremist group linked to Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia.

Petraeus said the CIA gave the White House information that was different from what Rice said on five Sunday talk shows.

At some point, the language in the CIA’s talking points was changed from “Al Qaeda-affiliated individuals” to “extremist organizations.”  Neither Petraeus nor Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, who both testified yesterday, said they knew who changed those talking points.

Rice had both classified and unclassified information.  Officials with access to both obviously aren’t going to divulge the classified stuff on Sunday talk shows.

But it seems to me they shouldn’t have had her appear at all rather than sell an explanation the Administration knew not to be true.  Or she should have been more non-committal and not pushed the whole spontaneous demonstration/anti-Mohammed YouTube video thing.  You have to walk a fine line between spilling your guts and lying.

If the Al Qaeda reference was considered classified information at that point and was changed for national security reasons, that’s okay.

But if it was taken out for political reasons, that’s very different and very wrong. If the Administration deleted the Al Qaeda reference because they thought it hurt Obama’s re-election argument that he had Al Qaeda on the run, that it would detract from his getting bin Laden, that’s both shameful and stupid.  Americans know that Al Qaeda still exists and remains a threat to us.



Quote of the Day

“The world tells Israel wait, there is still time.  And I say, wait for what?  Wait until when?  Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

One of the things we should remember today is that neither the Clinton Administration nor the early Bush Administration took Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda seriously enough.  The saddest thing about 9/11 is that it could have and should have been prevented.

Our “Ally” Pakistan — You Can’t Lose What You Don’t Have

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has warned the Obama Administration that “You will lose an ally,” if it continues accusing the Pakistanis of supporting the Haqqani terrorist group.  Finally, finally, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, said last week that the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.

How can we lose an ally we don’t have?  Pakistan is our enemy.  No one says it outright, but really we are at war with Pakistan and have been for a long time.  We, of course, want to wipe out the terrorists, they believe they need them to protect themselves from India.

Pakistan is not just passively harboring terrorists, it is actively helping them kill our soldiers in Afghanistan.

We have to stop waiting around for the Pakistanis to go after the Haqqanis.  Giving them more aid won’t do it.  Taking away their aid won’t do it.  Ain’t gonna happen.  We have to go after the Haqqanis ourselves with drones and special forces, just as we had to get Osama bin Laden ourselves because the Pakistanis would have protected him till he died of natural causes.

What’s the difference between North Korea and Pakistan?  No American soldiers will die today because of North Korea, and we haven’t given North Korea $20 billion in aid.





Mitt Romney Trying To Sound Commander in Chiefish Before Vets

Mitt “I’m Also Unemployed” Romney attacked President Obama in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars this morning, stating “We can’t lead the world by hoping our enemies will hate us less.”

Hey Mittens, I don’t call killing Osama bin Laden, kicking out Qaddafi, and all those increased drone strikes in Pakistan and North Africa “hope,” I call that “change.”

Conservatives Really Hate Obama, Not His Foreign Policy

David Remnick rather charitably writes in The New Yorker (“Behind the Curtain”):  “The trouble with so much of the conservative critique of Obama’s foreign policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about the assertion of America’s power and the affirmation of its glory.  … Yet a calculated modesty can augment a nation’s true influence.”

The truth about the conservative critique of Obama’s foreign policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about advancing a false narrative to deny him any credit whatsoever for successes like killing bin Laden and ousting Qaddafi.  These conservatives don’t care as much about whether America wins as they do about making sure President Obama loses.   Obama is fighting our real enemies, while the conservatives are fighting him.

I’m sick to death of their phony patriotism and frustrated that Mr. Remnick didn’t call them on it.