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.