Why Do Liberals Support Drone Strikes?

There is a little bit of garment-rending in progress about a new Washington Post poll that shows liberals strongly supporting the government’s program of using drones to take out terrorist targets. I don’t quite understand the confusion.

When it comes to taking out terrorists not on U.S. soil we have three options:

1. Let them go free
2. Use drones, incurring collateral damage
3. Put troops on the ground, putting soldiers at risk along with incurring collateral damage

The option of using international cooperation to round up these guys — the preferable option — is simply not viable in Pakistan, where much of this activity is taking place. As the Bin Laden operation showed us, terrorists are able to operate within a stone’s throw of Pakistan’s government without them lifting a finger to stop it. Their government is an impediment.

So, faced with those three options, we’ve opted for the drones. They are not perfect by a long stretch, but after over a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the least bloody option that kills terrorists.

I’m not surprised that even among liberals, this is a strategy that meets with approval.

The numbers go down slightly if the target is a U.S. citizen, but again most of us view an American working with Al Qaeda on foreign soil as just another agent of that organization.

(It’s worth pointing out that the usually deceptive Glenn Greenwald writes about drone strikes saying, “Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds.” I don’t deny that innocent people have been killed by drone strikes, but Greenwald writes it like these people are intentional targets. They aren’t. Those of us who support the drone strikes shouldn’t pretend as if they are clean weapons, but those opposed should be honest as well.)

I totally understand the dangers in giving the president the sole power to designate terrorist targets. I’m not comfortable with that much power residing in the executive office. I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it.

But I think the view of many who have these positions opposed to drone strikes and the like take a dispassionate view of this conflict that most don’t have. While we shouldn’t let emotion cloud things, we also can’t discount the unique toll of Al Qaeda-based terrorism on America’s psyche.

People want to get these guys, and it appears as if these drones are one of the best ways to get the job done, regardless of who the president is.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I still support closing the prisons in Guantanamo Bay and have found the sniveling opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to closure to be disgusting. My guess is the death of Bin Laden and kill/capture of other Al Qaeda have made people less anxious about the war on terror and that’s why Gitmo closure isn’t the sticking point it once was. Still, we should close it.

  • Southern Quaker

    Why Do Liberals Support Drone Strikes?

    Because these days “liberal” means slightly right of center?

  • Christopher Foxx

    Translation: Leave without calling my obnoxious. Rather let me demonstrate it myself.

  • http://breakingbrown.com YvetteC

    Then do so… no need to announce your intentions.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Actually, I’d rather just abandon this pointless exchange than address your self-important and faux superior attempt at discussion.

  • http://breakingbrown.com YvetteC

    Actually, he didn’t. Willis saying that the issue made him “uncomfortable” is not a serious approach at addressing the issue. So yes, I responded to what he said. You, on the other hand, would rather take up for him than address this unsophisticated and unserious approach at punditry.

  • Christopher Foxx

    YvetteC: Willis should address the issue -executive overreach …

    He did. But you’d rather complain about his having a different view than you, than actually respond to what he actually did say.

  • http://breakingbrown.com YvetteC

    This is, mostly, about the expansion of executive power, power that will one day be used by a Republican. To that charge, Willis meekly adds that it makes him “uncomfortable,” but then retreats to his own biased belief that those of us who are opposed to the strikes are just “dispassionate.” This is an unabashedly unserious response to the facts and their potential for future unintended consequences. Willis should address the issue -executive overreach – or he should leave it alone. If he can’t muster the intellectual muscle to address the full poundage and all the constitutional entanglements, then why even chime in?

  • Christopher Foxx

    (Man, I really need to check for typos before I hit the post button. So much for posting before the morning coffee kicks in.

    At least the meaning is still clear.)

  • Christopher Foxx

    CFoff: Step 1, claim everyone in a group believes something even thought they don’t.
    Step 2, point out how terrible the people in that group are for believing that thing (which they don’t all believe).

    It’s how the wingnuts roll….”

    MrGreyGhost: As opposed to a far-left loon/OW lemming who believes everything he hears on MSNBC, reads on Media Matters or is spun by a liberal President whose foreign policy has literally shadowed his predecessor’s.

    And when you point out that their tactics and lies, note how they don’t deny it. Instead, unthinking lemmings that they are, they turn to their playbook and do exactly what you’ve just pointed out they did the first time and respond with more false generalizations.

    It’s the not denying that their liars but instead responding with a kindergarten playground insults (“Well, maybe I did that but you’re a hypocrite and doody-head!”) that I find most amusing.

    It’s how they roll because it’s all they’ve got.

  • Zython

    For the same reason they now don’t seem to give a crap about Gitmo

    The problem is that we remember what happened with that.

    They were never against any of these actions. They were just anti-republican, and saw feigning outrage over his foreign policy as a way to hurt Bush. He and Obama are two-sides of the same coin. And the left has a ton of hypocrites.

    Projection, much? Not everyone is like you, MM. Some of us still have souls.

    No love lost for any terrorist killed by a drone, but waterboarding them is much more humane.

    What purpose does waterboarding serve besides sadism?

    whose foreign policy has literally shadowed his predecessor’s.

    How does something as incorporeal as foreign policy cast a shadow?

    who believes everything he hears on MSNBC, reads on Media Matters

    Oh, this is grand. Apparently, believing everything on Fox News, which tells numerous on each program, is just fine. But MSNBC* and MMfA, where conservative still refuse to point out any lies, are untrustworthy. Right…

    *Outside of Joe “Dead Intern” Scarborough, at least.

  • Barry

    No love lost for any terrorist killed by a drone, but waterboarding them is much more humane.

  • MrGreyGhost

    “Step 1, claim everyone in a group believes something even thought they don’t.
    Step 2, point out how terrible the people in that group are for believing that thing (which they don’t all believe).

    It’s how the wingnuts roll….”

    As opposed to a far-left loon/OW lemming who believes everything he hears on MSNBC, reads on Media Matters or is spun by a liberal President whose foreign policy has literally shadowed his predecessor’s.

    Hypocrisy thy name is a liberal.

  • Christopher Foxx

    No. I meant it’s possible to be completely accurate in what you say yet still leave an impression that something more actually happened.

    For example, villager says “They bombed my village!” If it had actually been several buildings the villager would not be making an inaccurate statement (as Rheinhard pointed out), but I wouldn’t be surprised to find most folks would take it to mean the entire village had been bombed. “Village” suggests a smaller settlement, entire villages have been bombed before, the video was obviously trying to make the attacks seem as extensive and destructive as possible. So “entire” village is not an unreasonable interpretation.

    But if that’s not the impression they meant to leave, OK, I’ll go with that.

    So, drones are being used to target family funerals now?

  • Southern Quaker

    Only if one is trying to leave an impression that something more happened than actually did.

    Yes, because these bombs are so very small that they can only harm one individual at a time, don’t ya know. And they have this new super secret technology that zeroes in on the terrorist’s DNA, so there’s no need to drop several bombs on multiple homes. Or funerals. Or weddings. Or anything.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Only if one is trying to leave an impression that something more happened than actually did.

  • Rheinhard

    If one bombs up several homes or other buildings in town X, is it not accurate to say “town X was bombed”?

  • Christopher Foxx

    Rheinhard: Heart&Mind-O-Matic!
    We’ll win you over by:
    -Bombing your village!
    -Killing your family.
    -And bombing the funeral!

    Drones are being used to target entire villages now?

  • Rheinhard
  • Christopher Foxx

    brif: <iThis issue is the lack of oversight or any established procedure to determine who is a terrorist. As it currently stands, the president can use a drone strike to kill anyone anywhere simply by labeling them a terrorist.

    Oliver can certainly speak for himself, brif. But if I were to summarize his opinion it would boil down to:

    – I don’t have a problem with using drones to take out the bad guys because they are effective and help minimize the cost and collateral damage.

    – I don’t want the President to be the sole person deciding who the bad guys are.

    In other words, I don’t see OW being at odds with your “This issue is the lack of oversight or any established procedure to determine who is a terrorist.”

  • brif

    wow oliver. i haven’t read such a poorly thought out post from you since football season. You are completely missing the point. This issue is the lack of oversight or any established procedure to determine who is a terrorist. As it currently stands, the president can use a drone strike to kill anyone anywhere simply by labeling them a terrorist.

  • Christopher Foxx

    moonbat monitor: For the same reason they now don’t seem to give a crap about Gitmo being open or attacking Libya: because the president is a Democrat.

    And moonbat turns to the same page in the wingnut playbook as MrGreyGhost:

    Step 1, claim everyone in a group believes something even thought they don’t (in FACT, many who opposed Bush’s opening Gitmo continue to oppose Obama’s keeping it open).
    Step 2, point out how terrible the people in that group are for believing that thing (which they don’t all believe).
    Step 3, get the warm fuzzies from having re-assured yourself that the world is as you need it to be to feel validated (even though it isn’t that way at all).

  • Johnny

    “He appears to be ok with drone strikes, but then I’m not sure to what he was referring with:

    I totally understand the dangers in giving the president the sole power to designate terrorist targets. I’m not comfortable with that much power residing in the executive office. I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it.

    Perhaps an objection with some of the targets of drone strikes, but not with the strikes in general?”

    It reads more like an objection with the process of designating the targets of drone strikes–the idea being that giving the president the sole authority to designate who is a terrorist and thus warrants a drone strike is a bad idea because it’s inherently open to abuse. Essentially, since he wouldn’t trust every president to make the right call, he doesn’t trust any president to make that call. (I would assume he prefers that we should determine whether the person being targeted is enough of a threat to warrant such a strike before we go forward)

    ““I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it….”

    Again as long as there’s a (D) following his name liberals will no sleep over a Prez killing innocent people. Not a wink.”

    I believe he’s saying that he doesn’t believe the President should have the sole authority to decide who lives and who dies, regardless of who that President is, because of the fact that “the President” isn’t always going to be the same guy, and just because you trust one President to be fair-minded in how he deploys drones, that doesn’t necessarily mean that any other President won’t be willing to use drones more haphazardly, or to stamp out dissent or further his own agendas.

    I would imagine that while Oliver is not necessarily opposed to drone strikes in principle, he believes that we should be as sure as we can possibly be before we deploy them, just as we should be sure of the casus belli before we deploy conventional ground troops or conventional air strikes.

    “And the left has a ton of hypocrites.”

    Well, assuming an average weight of about 140-150 lbs, that would mean that “the left” has about 13-14 hypocrites. I didn’t know you thought so highly of the left to believe that there are so few hypocrites among its members.

  • Buzz Killington

    Some liberals/conservatives are actually just partisans. It’s important to notice the distinction. I think the question is really why do Democrats support drone strikes, despite claiming to be liberal. That’s what Oliver seems to be answering. I’m not sure I understand what he does and does not support, however.

    He appears to be ok with drone strikes, but then I’m not sure to what he was referring with:

    I totally understand the dangers in giving the president the sole power to designate terrorist targets. I’m not comfortable with that much power residing in the executive office. I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it.

    Perhaps an objection with some of the targets of drone strikes, but not with the strikes in general?

  • moonbat monitor

    For the same reason they now don’t seem to give a crap about Gitmo being open or attacking Libya: because the president is a Democrat.

    They were never against any of these actions. They were just anti-republican, and saw feigning outrage over his foreign policy as a way to hurt Bush. He and Obama are two-sides of the same coin. And the left has a ton of hypocrites.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Again as long as there’s a (D) following his name liberals will no sleep over a Prez killing innocent people.

    Step 1, claim everyone in a group believes something even thought they don’t.
    Step 2, point out how terrible the people in that group are for believing that thing (which they don’t all believe).

    It’s how the wingnuts roll.

  • Marco21

    Oh, so GWB killed innocent people? Finally, MrGrey can admit as much.

  • MrGreyGhost

    “I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it….”

    Again as long as there’s a (D) following his name liberals will no sleep over a Prez killing innocent people. Not a wink.

  • TheBigPill

    “Collateral damage” is a euphemism for describing the killing of innocent men, women, and children while attempting to kill the accused terrorist. I say ‘accused’ because, as Oliver has stated, the president will have “the sole power to designate terrorist targets”.

    As for myself, I am never in support of killing innocent people, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, age, etc.

  • Christopher Foxx

    I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it.

    That seems a very reasonable approach to me. “I’m OK with my guy, but I don’t trust yours. So I’m going to limit my guy.”

    It’s not a view I’ve typically seen followed by the right, particularly when you get to the wingnut portion of the spectrum (which tends to be the more vocal). There its more “I’m OK with my guy, but I don’t trust yours. So I’m going to let my guy do it, but not yours.”

    Gingrich, of course, is the master of this separate-rules-for-thee-and-me.

    and have found the sniveling opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to closure to be disgusting. … we should close it.

    Amen.