Thursday, September 27, 2012

The immorality of the U.S. drone war

I'm going to vote for Obama. I live in a safely blue state but, perhaps a bit irrationally, I don't feel like taking any chances. Romney in the White House would be horrible. There are important issues where the chasm between the two is wide and the Romney approach would be very bad. There is the issue of prospective Supreme Court appointments. And so on.

All that said, am I going to vote for Obama enthusiastically? No, I don't think I can say that. Conor Friedersdorf's description of the drone war (via CT) captures the major part of the reason:
The drone war [Obama] is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.
I'm hard pressed to do anything except agree with this. I don't share Friedersdorf's conclusion (he's voting for the libertarian candidate), but on this issue I think he's pretty much right. That is, he's right that it's an immoral policy. (He's not right in the conclusion that it requires a vote for someone other than Obama. Sometimes one has to vote for a candidate who is pursuing an immoral policy, if the other candidate with a chance to win would pursue more immoral policies.) 

Also, see a new study of the drone campaign described here (h/t).

P.s. (added later): As things I've written here before suggest, I recognize that the issue is not an easy one, given Pakistan's refusal to deal with the Haqqani network and other groups which have been carrying out cross-border attacks into Afghanistan from the border region. Still, the 'collateral' cost of drones, in terms of civilian casualties and hardship, makes the campaign in its current form hard to justify.  

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