Missing the point on drone killings

G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

He had … … the trick of dismissing the important part of a question as if it could wait, and appearing to get to business on the unimportant part of it.  Thus, he would say, “Whatever we may think of the rights and wrongs of the vivisection of pauper children, we shall all agree that it should only be done, in any event, by fully qualified practitioners.”

==G.K. Chesterton, The Flying Inn

I heard a version of this kind of argument the other day when I was talking about drone killings to an Obamaphile friend of mine.  My friend, whom I regard as both an intelligent person and a decent human being, argued that for President Obama to order the killing of people by precision flying drones is better than the alternative.  The people in the target areas are better off, he said, than if the United States was dropping napalm and cluster bombs or invading with troops.

Considered as a technology, flying killer drones are of course no worse than other weapons technologies, except they allow the illusion that killing is easy, safe and without consequences.  The question is whether in a supposedly free country, the President should have the power to draw up death warrants and order killings at his sole discretion, like Yuri Andropov in the days of the old Soviet Union.

V.I. Lenin once wrote:  The scientific definition of dictatorship means nothing less but this: power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules.   If a head of state has the authority to sign death warrants as his sole discretion, what does he lack to fit Lenin’s definition?  If this is accepted, not only President Obama, but every President for the foreseeable future, will lack nothing to exercise the power of a dictator.

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One Response to “Missing the point on drone killings”

  1. Holden Says:

    All you need do is turn the question around on him. Present your friend with this theoretical situation.

    An American born of Pakistani heritage is hell bent on detonating a bomb at a mosque in Pakistan while there on pilgrimage. He fails to do so after having his plot foiled by Pakistani intelligence.

    The would be terrorist flees back to America and shares on an underground internet forum that he is going to instead detonate a bomb at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, DC.

    The Pakistani intelligence has been monitoring this individual and believes he has the means and true intention of doing so. They also happen to have a covert drone in the air and position it over this individual’s home in rural Virginia. The Pakistani head of state gives the order and the hit takes place. The would be terrorist is killed.

    Is this acceptable?

    Like

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