Obama the assassin

A withering piece from Charles Krauthhammer on the way President Obama wages the Drone War:

A very strange story, that 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles “baseball cards” with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is significant.

The article could have been titled “Barack Obama: Drone Warrior.” Great detail on how Obama personally runs the assassination campaign. On-the-record quotes from the highest officials. This was no leak. This was a White House press release.

Why? To portray Obama as tough guy. And why now? Because in crisis after recent crisis, Obama has looked particularly weak: standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria; being played by Iran in nuclear negotiations, now reeling with the collapse of the latest round in Baghdad; being treated with contempt by Vladimir Putin, who blocks any action on Syria or Iran and adds personal insult by standing up Obama at the latter’s G-8 and NATO summits.

The Obama camp thought that any political problem with foreign policy would be cured by the Osama bin Laden operation. But the administration’s attempt to politically exploit the raid’s one-year anniversary backfired, earning ridicule and condemnation for its crude appropriation of the heroic acts of others. . . .

The Osama-slayer card having been vastly overplayed, what to do? A new card: Obama, drone warrior, steely and solitary, delivering death with cool dispatch to the rest of the al-Qaeda depth chart.

So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills, has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.

A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.

This is not to argue against drone attacks. In principle, they are fully justified. No quarter need be given to terrorists who wear civilian clothes, hide among civilians and target civilians indiscriminately. But it is to question the moral amnesia of those whose delicate sensibilities were offended by the Bush methods that kept America safe for a decade — and who now embrace Obama’s campaign of assassination by remote control.

Moreover, there is an acute military problem. Dead terrorists can’t talk.

Drone attacks are cheap — which is good. But the path of least resistance has a cost. It yields no intelligence about terror networks or terror plans.

One capture could potentially make us safer than 10 killings. But because of the moral incoherence of Obama’s war on terror, there are practically no captures anymore. What would be the point? There’s nowhere for the CIA to interrogate. And what would they learn even if they did, Obama having decreed a new regime of kid-gloves, name-rank-and-serial-number interrogation?

This administration came out opposing military tribunals, wanting to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York, reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights and trying mightily (and unsuccessfully, there being — surprise! — no plausible alternative) to close Guantanamo. Yet alongside this exquisite delicacy about the rights of terrorists is the campaign to kill them in their beds.

You festoon your prisoners with rights — but you take no prisoners. The morality is perverse. Which is why the results are so mixed. We do kill terror operatives, an important part of the war on terror, but we gratuitously forfeit potentially life-saving intelligence.

But that will cost us later. For now, we are to bask in the moral seriousness and cool purpose of our drone warrior president.

via Barack Obama: Drone Warrior – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “Dead terrorists can’t talk.”

    Krauthammer apparently missed Jeff Dunham’s “Achmed” ventriloquist schtick.

  • Pete

    “Dead terrorists can’t talk.”

    Krauthammer apparently missed Jeff Dunham’s “Achmed” ventriloquist schtick.

  • EricM

    There is another aspect to this not mentioned in the article. Some of the drone strikes occur in countries that have specifically denied permission for such strikes. Pakistan, for example, has denied permission but the attacks continue none the less.

  • EricM

    There is another aspect to this not mentioned in the article. Some of the drone strikes occur in countries that have specifically denied permission for such strikes. Pakistan, for example, has denied permission but the attacks continue none the less.

  • SKPeterson

    While I am no Obama fan, I can’t say I agree much with Krauthammer on this one. At least not on his counterpoint to Obama. Assassination via drone may be warranted in some cases. Krauthammer implies that for all Obama’s apparent steeliness in managing the drone strikes it is really an exercise in pursuing a reckless, feckless foreign policy. The real danger lies in the continual intervention in the Middle East of which the drone strikes are now our most obvious foreign policy tool. Krauthammer thinks Obama is screwing up because doesn’t do enough. I argue he’s screwing up because he’s doing too much.

    But for Krauthammer, the necessary foreign policy posture of the United States must be offensive, interventionist and always ready to go to war. Talk about fecklessness. Apparently, being played by a foreign power is the exclusive reserve of Israel, for whom Krauthammer is one of the most basest of shills. So, we must intervene in Syria. Why? Well, because – the region needs stability, democracy and something else we’ll think of later. And they’re allied with Iran. If we cause the Syrian regime to collapse, voila! Iran will be further isolated. Sure, a more hostile regime may emerge that is still allied with Iran and is even more willing to persecute the Christian minority, but it’s all for the good of Middle East peace.

    Here’s the deal. I have two (two-and-a-half, really) rules of thumb for policy, one foreign, one domestic. For reign policy, if Charles Krauthammer (or Bill Kristol) is for it – it’s a bad idea. For domestic policy, if Paul Krugman is for it – it’s a bad idea. Simple, but ever so effective.

  • SKPeterson

    While I am no Obama fan, I can’t say I agree much with Krauthammer on this one. At least not on his counterpoint to Obama. Assassination via drone may be warranted in some cases. Krauthammer implies that for all Obama’s apparent steeliness in managing the drone strikes it is really an exercise in pursuing a reckless, feckless foreign policy. The real danger lies in the continual intervention in the Middle East of which the drone strikes are now our most obvious foreign policy tool. Krauthammer thinks Obama is screwing up because doesn’t do enough. I argue he’s screwing up because he’s doing too much.

    But for Krauthammer, the necessary foreign policy posture of the United States must be offensive, interventionist and always ready to go to war. Talk about fecklessness. Apparently, being played by a foreign power is the exclusive reserve of Israel, for whom Krauthammer is one of the most basest of shills. So, we must intervene in Syria. Why? Well, because – the region needs stability, democracy and something else we’ll think of later. And they’re allied with Iran. If we cause the Syrian regime to collapse, voila! Iran will be further isolated. Sure, a more hostile regime may emerge that is still allied with Iran and is even more willing to persecute the Christian minority, but it’s all for the good of Middle East peace.

    Here’s the deal. I have two (two-and-a-half, really) rules of thumb for policy, one foreign, one domestic. For reign policy, if Charles Krauthammer (or Bill Kristol) is for it – it’s a bad idea. For domestic policy, if Paul Krugman is for it – it’s a bad idea. Simple, but ever so effective.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Nothing like an adversarial partisan position to help one find the flaws, however small in a course of action. I can’t really evaluate how much good these drone attacks do other than keep some of our servicemen from getting killed, but I think that is probably not related to who is the president. I certainly don’t think Bush would pressure his generals to halt assassinations so we could capture and interrogate the enemy, especially in areas like Pakistan. So, making it about Obama may allow some to open their minds enough to consider that drone strikes, like any strategy aren’t without any potential drawbacks.

    Now if we could just get them to consider that all intervention there may be flawed.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Nothing like an adversarial partisan position to help one find the flaws, however small in a course of action. I can’t really evaluate how much good these drone attacks do other than keep some of our servicemen from getting killed, but I think that is probably not related to who is the president. I certainly don’t think Bush would pressure his generals to halt assassinations so we could capture and interrogate the enemy, especially in areas like Pakistan. So, making it about Obama may allow some to open their minds enough to consider that drone strikes, like any strategy aren’t without any potential drawbacks.

    Now if we could just get them to consider that all intervention there may be flawed.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    This whole thing reminds me of Clinton and his cruise missile attacks. Every time a domestic issue came up, we some how managed to find an Islamic terrorist or camp or whatever and we would lob a few missiles at them.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    This whole thing reminds me of Clinton and his cruise missile attacks. Every time a domestic issue came up, we some how managed to find an Islamic terrorist or camp or whatever and we would lob a few missiles at them.

  • Jon

    @5 –Yup. Anything but the economy.

  • Jon

    @5 –Yup. Anything but the economy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Krauthammer asks, “And why now?”, but fails to compellingly answer his own question, giving answers instead to the question, “And why in the past year or so?”

    Also, only a hawk like Krauthammer would claim that Obama was “standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria”. As I recall, most Republicans were whining non-stop when Obama involved us in Libya. So it strikes me as either disingenuous or simply out-of-touch to suggest that Americans (much less Republicans) were clamoring for Obama to invade Syria.

    But yeah, Obama’s turned out to be a lot like George W. Bush. That’s an argument against Obama, it’s true. But I don’t recall Krauthammer being so vociferously anti-Bush when he was in office.

    As to his latter point, remind me again why I should care about the opinions on the intelligence implications of particular military strategies from a man who writes newspaper columns and appears on TV for a living?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Krauthammer asks, “And why now?”, but fails to compellingly answer his own question, giving answers instead to the question, “And why in the past year or so?”

    Also, only a hawk like Krauthammer would claim that Obama was “standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria”. As I recall, most Republicans were whining non-stop when Obama involved us in Libya. So it strikes me as either disingenuous or simply out-of-touch to suggest that Americans (much less Republicans) were clamoring for Obama to invade Syria.

    But yeah, Obama’s turned out to be a lot like George W. Bush. That’s an argument against Obama, it’s true. But I don’t recall Krauthammer being so vociferously anti-Bush when he was in office.

    As to his latter point, remind me again why I should care about the opinions on the intelligence implications of particular military strategies from a man who writes newspaper columns and appears on TV for a living?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLit2C (@5), and what was George W. Bush covering up with the two wars he started? Must’ve been a vastly bigger domestic snafu than either Clinton or Obama had!

    … Oh, what’s that? Your conspiracy theory only ever applies to Democratic presidents? Hmm. That’s interesting.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLit2C (@5), and what was George W. Bush covering up with the two wars he started? Must’ve been a vastly bigger domestic snafu than either Clinton or Obama had!

    … Oh, what’s that? Your conspiracy theory only ever applies to Democratic presidents? Hmm. That’s interesting.

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, “As to his latter point, remind me again why I should care about the opinions on the intelligence implications of particular military strategies from a man who writes newspaper columns and appears on TV for a living?”

    Because it give us something of a clue of the buzz in the Beltway. And, if nothing else, because others care. Others who are more influential than you or me. We don’t have to believe it or agree with it but I think we ignore it at our own peril.

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, “As to his latter point, remind me again why I should care about the opinions on the intelligence implications of particular military strategies from a man who writes newspaper columns and appears on TV for a living?”

    Because it give us something of a clue of the buzz in the Beltway. And, if nothing else, because others care. Others who are more influential than you or me. We don’t have to believe it or agree with it but I think we ignore it at our own peril.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I rely on Krauthammer’s understanding of military intelligence every bit as much as I rely on his understanding of network topology.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I rely on Krauthammer’s understanding of military intelligence every bit as much as I rely on his understanding of network topology.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#8 Aw, you’re just jealous because I posted it first. =)
    It does make you wonder what G.W was hiding.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#8 Aw, you’re just jealous because I posted it first. =)
    It does make you wonder what G.W was hiding.

  • Jon

    What GW was hiding by starting Iraq and Afg wars? Really?

    Those followed the terrorist attacks on our country.

    And the economy was still humming along pretty well in 2001-2. So that couldn’t have been the reason for them.

    Now? Gotta have something to talk about besides the economy.

  • Jon

    What GW was hiding by starting Iraq and Afg wars? Really?

    Those followed the terrorist attacks on our country.

    And the economy was still humming along pretty well in 2001-2. So that couldn’t have been the reason for them.

    Now? Gotta have something to talk about besides the economy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon said (@12):

    Those followed the terrorist attacks on our country.

    Sure they followed it, chronologically. … I’m sorry, were you suggesting that there was any connection whatsoever between the terrorists who attacked us in 2001 and the country of Iraq?

    And the economy was still humming along pretty well in 2001-2. So that couldn’t have been the reason for them.

    Um … no. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we were in recession in 2001. So that very well could have been the reason, at least for the war in Afghanistan. According to this conspiracy theory, of course.

    But, as we can see, this conspiracy theory is only applied by Republicans to Democratic presidents — especially Republicans with an apparently shaky grasp on recent history.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon said (@12):

    Those followed the terrorist attacks on our country.

    Sure they followed it, chronologically. … I’m sorry, were you suggesting that there was any connection whatsoever between the terrorists who attacked us in 2001 and the country of Iraq?

    And the economy was still humming along pretty well in 2001-2. So that couldn’t have been the reason for them.

    Um … no. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we were in recession in 2001. So that very well could have been the reason, at least for the war in Afghanistan. According to this conspiracy theory, of course.

    But, as we can see, this conspiracy theory is only applied by Republicans to Democratic presidents — especially Republicans with an apparently shaky grasp on recent history.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    Assassinations and torture…it’s hard to imagine what Christians will find acceptable next.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    Assassinations and torture…it’s hard to imagine what Christians will find acceptable next.


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