God rest his soul.
Nobody knows about the 13 year old boy Obama burned to death.
This kid got killed on 2/10/15. I can’t find anything on him that’s not waving the red shirt, jihadist propaganda, or unusably vague and not fit for the purpose of passing any judgment on the strike.
If AQAP was running a recruitment storefront and we hit that as this kid was in line to see if they’d take him, the judgment on the decision to strike the target would reasonably differ than if he was just riding his bicycle down the street and was independently targeted because the CIA wanted to kill a little brown kid.
Since ISIS went to great lengths to advertise their killing of the pilot and we didn’t advertise anything about the drone strike, is it reasonable to feel guilty about not knowing about this particular recent incident?
Measured discourse is harder than false equivalency, and also rarer. Well done once again.
I’m not closing the door on the possibility that Mark has seen stories that I haven’t and is in reasonable righteous anger mode. A quick google search is not exhaustive by any means.
It is not beyond possible that the drone strike was worse than the execution by fire. I simply am insufficiently uninformed on this recent case to draw any judgment.
Unless the boy was a combatant engaged in battle (not possible since he was in Yemen which isn’t actually a battlefield) the drone strike was still murder.
One of the nasty things about the non-Westphalian world the jihadists want to bring about is the destruction of any certainty that a particular place is not a battlefield. The jihadists view that as a feature, not a bug. A measure of their progress towards victory is how much they force us to fight under their terms.
Serious question, how would you know what a battlefield is in modern war?
Without putting too much thought into it I would say declarations of war (or the equivalent) by either actual nation states or nation state like entities (see ISIS). Otherwise I think in order to not become the evil we are engaged with you have to treat the non-state actors like the criminal cartels they are (albeit with somewhat different objectives ).
Dropping missles and bombs on civilian populations in the attempt to kill one (possible) criminal is ineffective and I think criminal in its own right.
Not to mention that the drone strikes on civilian areas seem to be having the effect of radicalizin more of the population.
I have every confidence that the Obama administration’s paperwork is impeccable. We certainly pay enough lawyers to make the paperwork right according to international law. I also have every confidence that we aren’t going to see the paperwork for decades. This makes independent judgment difficult.
You’re already making a judgement that the part about dropping missiles and bombs on civilian populations is relevant to the discussion. I’m not there yet.
You see there is another problem with non-westphalian war. There are no civilian areas. All that you have is metaphorical people talking at the city gate asking will you open up the gates (i.e. you are civilians at the moment). In case you did not realize it, I hate the idea of sinking back to a pre-westphalian state. We have a bunch of amateurs in both parties that are inchoately reaching for post-westphalianism, but they are ivy league inbred hicks and mostly seem to be managing regression back to a pre-westphalian state of affairs.
Since this is a Catholic board, it’s probably wise to note that the Church can manage judgment on both westphalian and non-westphalian war and has done so for centuries. There’s no theological problem per se. There’s a great big vulnerability on all sides to reading our preferred geopolitical systems into the Church’s teaching. That would not be wise. I’ve caught myself doing that a few times over the years.
Update: Yemen was defined as a combat zone by Executive Order No. 13239 issued by President Bush in 2001. Serving in the military in Yemen still gets you a tax break. I came across this while trying to find the definition of combat veteran, a term which is surprisingly hard to nail down.
ALthough I do not always agree with you, I want to thank for trying to pin down or at least give me insights into the quagmire we call the Middle East. I fear that this is a damned if we do and damned if we don’t scenario. Your characterization of those who are attempting to return to a state where the big can interfere with the little (my understanding of Westphalian doctrine, please correct if I am wrong) as hicks and amateurs is far to gentle.
I’m glad to be of service. I know going in that my own personal interpretations are of a distinct minority and unlikely to have universal appeal. I use this forum to help me escape epistemic closure and other forms of intellectual navel gazing and philosophical rot. That means that I trot stuff out here that isn’t always fully formed and use this forum to provide polish and test whether I’m barking up the right tree.
The Wikipedia page on the subject of the Westphalian system is actually pretty well done: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westphalian_sovereignty
There are legitimate problems with the Wesphalian international system. The nuclear bomb and all the scary scenarios that spring from it probably make pure non-interference impractical. I understand the impulse to improve on westphalianism. But we aren’t achieving that. That’s why I call these people amateurs. They experiment without a plan to rollback failed changes or even to properly evaluate whether a change works or not. That is absolutely impermissible among any sort of professionals.
Be that as it may the drone strike, as far as I can tell from the reporting, is still immoral in that it indiscriminately targets and kills civilians. And while Yemen may be defined as a “combat zone” for the sake of the impeccable paperwork, we are not at war with Yemen.
Even taking the morality of drone strikes out of the question I would question their efficacy. In a digital interconnected world where the aftermath of a drone strike can play on YouTube or the Arabic equivalent, that becomes an instant recruiting tool for the various Islamic cartels we are trying to defeat.
Our best hope now in the Middle East is that ISIS has made itself and its tactics so toxic that the various Muslim kingdoms will drive them out. Supporting those efforts would be a good use of drones (i.e. actual combat missions as opposed to “targeted killings”)
Nothing we do will bring this kid back to life. All that can be done is to advocate and implement changes in the rules to behave better in future.
I want to be sure that the argument you are making is not being made accidentally. The drone is innovative only by removing the pilot and flying remote. Other than that, it’s just an airplane. The level of discrimination in aerial bombing is measured by how much time you have to decide (a moderately complex formula of airspeed and available fuel) and what you’re dropping/launching to do the strike. Drones do well on loiter, which makes them more discriminant than most air strikes. They drop the same bombs/launch the same missiles as regular airplanes so things are a wash there. So to make the argument that drones “indiscriminately target” is to say that all aerial bombing is morally out of bounds and we are stuck in the mud with ground tactics and likely losing a great many of those as an impartial standard set to that level would likely take out most artillery support as well. Did you really mean to advocate that? because if you didn’t, you need to rework your argument to something that is less likely to significantly increase our casualty rate.
Now military convenience makes little impression on moral arguments but I would expect that if the Church would actually hold to the standard you say, it would not have adopted cannon for the armies of the papal states, and certainly would never have run a siege. Since they did both, I would like to understand your standard for weapon permissibility which would not condemn a few hundred years of popes to hell for their military activities.
We are not at war with Yemen? You say that like it matters. We are allied with the official government of Yemen in its war against its all too successful rebels. There is a trick that the jihadi brigade uses that they are muslims and all muslims who oppose them are apostates, and thus fair game. You seem to be going along with it by over-simplifying the situation. Or are military alliances also not permitted in your view?
I once had a part time project bedeviling the Pentagon’s press office. I asked what is war? It knocked them sideways, mostly because they didn’t actually have a quick working definition that they maintained but also because the question was not classified and obviously within their area of expertise. We eventually worked out that war is largely the stuff that the Pentagon writes operations manuals for, a product which at the highest level you can find listed here:
The ones that are listed classified, can be found legally via google by cutting and pasting their name in to a search engine, thank you Supreme Court. For those who are cautious, the relevant case settling that such conduct is legal is the Pentagon Papers case.
If I understand you correctly, you seem to be arguing for major surgery on JP3-03, Joint Interdiction to impart a higher standard of care for strikes that are a considerable distance from the battle line. Lowering the usage of interdiction strikes can reduce their effectiveness to the point where civilian casualties in the whole warfighting ecosystem actually go up.
None of these people are my close neighbors. I have zero relief that a 13 year old is saved in a city 5000 miles away at the cost of two 13 year olds in a different city 5010 miles away. Systemic casualties, including propaganda effects that draw more to the fight to be slaughtered, are important. Since jihadis, ISIS included, have no problems just making stuff up, my worry about propaganda effects of our strikes is somewhat muted.
The system is human and mistakes can be made. Humans are afflicted with sin and evil can be done. I still don’t have enough information to judge this particular strike. There is enough information to knock out a large number of bad reform efforts. So far, your stuff seems to qualify as part of the bad idea brigade.
fair enough for that last sentence. In my own defense, i did start this whole string of replies with “without much thought”. ;0
To your more substantive points:
I think that the campaign of “targeted killings” undertaken primarily by the CIA at the direction of Bush initially and considerably ramped up under Obama amounts to murder (morally) in almost every circumstance. I think a distinction can be made (morally) between the use of drones/bombs to blow up one suspected terrorist along with his family or anyone else that happens to be nearby; and the use of airpower to secure or provide support to a battlefield or interdict actual fighters/weapons/supply lines farther from the battlelines.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to do the relevant research on the current manual to see what the related sections would say. My concern (and my opposition) stem from my gut instinct (hopefully informed by the Church’s teaching) that this activity is wrong, ineffective and provides a slippery slope to the increased use of similar force within the US (if the whole world is a battlefield?).
I appreciate your willingness to engage the issue at a deeper level than the knee-jerk shallow slogans that constitute our current political discourse and you are correct that the issue is more complicated than most commentators would like to admit.
I’m engaging like this because I don’t have settled answers either and think I’m just a bit further down the road. You and others on this board are my sanity check. Even on some of the bitter issues (and boy have there been bitter issues), I’ve grown and adjusted as good arguments percolate up.
The link in my post goes straight to the manuals. The interdiction one is where most of your restrictions will create collateral damage to our war fighting.
I have a theory that ever since the Pope stopped deploying armies, we’ve slowly come religiously disconnected from the reality of war. This has accelerated with the victory of the volunteer military model over the conscription model over the last half century. I think that it is dangerous to theologize in a vacuum and that for activities that are not intrinsically evil, we should know enough that we are not setting unrealistic standards. And that, ultimately, is why I was harassing a LTC for over a month to nail down that most basic term of the subject, war itself. What is it that you do when you make war? I don’t think 1 american in 10 would have a ready answer to that question more sophisticated than “kill people and break stuff”. That’s insufficient to do a just war analysis and as citizens of a republic we need to do one (especially the jus in bello part) if we’re to judge if we’re acting in accord with our faith.
Well apparently Yemen is pretty much completely in the hands of Al-Qaeda and some sort of Shiite army. We have abandoned our embassy and destroyed another country so those drone strikes are really doing a lot of good. Is anyone actually in charge of the USA? What is the plan here?
I used to think I knew something about Yemen. Then I talked a few times to someone who worked there. The drone strikes are a pimple on the butt of a stage IV cancer patient. The Yemenis destroyed their own country and have been doing it a long time.
My Jordanian ex-som-in-law once told me, “Yemenis are crazy. Muslim Yemenis, Christian Yemenis, Jewish Yemenis… They’re all crazy.”
WRT whether Yemen is a battlefield, consider: http://www.longwarjournal.org/tags/Yemen/today-in/