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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Obama claims right to attack anyone, anywhere, any time



So claims Gary Kamiya who writes for Salon. Kamiya contends that if in 2000 the U.S. president had said the government would be using drones to track and kill people all over the world the uproar would have been enormous.

Kamiya does not give any grounds for saying that there would be an uproar. Perhaps there would, the first uproar against George W Bush who was elected in November of 2000. But reaction to what Obama does even when his use of drones goes much beyond that of Bush is different.

According to an article in the Washington Post fully 77 per cent of Liberal Democrats support Obama's use of drones. 53 per cent of Liberal Democrats also support keeping Guantanamo Bay open even though it was a key plank in Obama's election platform to close it down. Outrage about these matters is abandoned by liberals and left to libertarian Tea Party conservatives such as Ron Paul!

Kamiya thinks that the drone use started in Afghanistan and the border areas of Pakistan but then once that precedent was established drone use spread far afield to Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya. Kamiya thinks the Afghan war was justified. I think he is dead wrong on that but will let it pass. He argues the fanciful case that removing the Taliban was a clear case of self-defense. However he also holds that the war turned out not to be wise because the costs particularly for Americans outweigh the benefits.

America he thinks is ready to abandon Afghanistan because of the cost of the war but at the same time America is continuing a costly and fruitless war on terror inclduding a rapid expansion of drone attacks.

Kamiya realizes that arguing against the drone war is difficult because the war is relatively cheap and virtually costless in terms of American lives lost. The war also enables Obama to claim that he is not soft on terrorism a charge that he would face if he cut back on the war on terror.

Kamiya thinks that the drone attacks have been tactically effective as well in that they have killed many militant leaders and disrupted their command and control systems. Special forces operations have a long track record of success he claims. Dirty war tactics worked well in World War II.

But Kamiya argues the dirty war does not make America safer. Kamiya argues that America's opponents in the war on terror represent a minor threat but that the resources spent on attacking them continually are very large and could be better spent on other purposes such as improving the life of people who live in areas the militants operate.

Kamiya fears that there will be blowback from the process of fighting a dirty war. This is evident in Pakistan and Afghanistan where anti-U.S. and anti-NATO sentiments are extremely strong. The blowback in Pakistan could very well result in the government falling. Kamiya notes that the tactic being used in the war against terror by special forces and drones are often difficult to distinguish from those used by opponents.

As has been pointed out by many critics the use of drones and special forces attacks may actually create new opponents especially in the context of tribal societies. For much more see the whole article.

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