There is a fascinating and disturbing article in Newsweek entitled, “Drones: How Obama Learned to Kill”. The article is long, but worth reading when you have a moment. It is excerpted from a new book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, written by Daniel Klaidman.
The book explores how President Obama’s thinking on anti-terrorism activities has evolved since he took office. Specifically, the book describes the decision-making process that the President and his top advisors go through before deciding to kill a terrorist target.
I have to admit that even writing these words makes me uncomfortable. I am a pacifist at heart and feel a strong urge to ignore the realities of what happens outside of our bordersin the name of keeping us safe.
I can only imagine the heavy burden placed on a President and his top military officials when forced to make a decision like this. Some striking excerpts from the book that help me better understand the complexities of what these officials deal with:
The president is not a robotic killing machine. The choices he faces are brutally difficult, and he has struggled with them—sometimes turning them over in his mind again and again. The people around him have also battled and disagreed. They’ve invoked the safety of America on the one hand and the righteousness of what America stands for on the other.
If there is a person in the camp who is a clear threat to the United States we should go after him. But carpet bombing a country is a really bad precedent.
…both men were grappling with the same reality: their advice could ensure death for strangers who lived thousands of miles away—or spare them.
I really struggle with this. I realize that there are people whose sole aim in life is to harm the United States for a wide variety of reasons. From the comfort of my home I cannot fully condemn the activities of leaders who have willingly taken on the responsibility and are doing their best to grapple with the difficult choices to keep us safe.
I also know that when George W. Bush was President, I was probably much less willing to explore this issue and more willing to cast stones.
But I have to wonder if there is a better way to keep us safe. Of course, I believe that promoting economic and democratic stability around the globe is one of the best ways to lessen vicious animosity towards the United States. But I also wonder if there aren’t more opportunities to use the legal system to bring people to justice.
I understand that this is extremely complex and that a protracted court case could actually exacerbate the risk.
I clearly don’t have the answers to this complex problem and I realize that I probably come from an idealistically naive perspective. Of course, I never do have the answers in this blog, which is why I always ask…
What do you think? How do you feel about the recent killings inflicted by the United States on terrorist suspects? Do you think there is a better way to keep us safe? What does that better way look like? Do you think that President Obama is going to suffer any legal consequences for his actions? Should he? Do you feel conflicted about this issue like I do?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.