Political opponents of US President Barack Obama have avoided attacking him where he would seem to be most vulnerable: his use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists, in almost complete secrecy. Why? FT columnist Geoff Dyer explains.
Mr Obama, a Nobel Peace laureate, did not invent the new approach but he has dramatically expanded it. The use of targeted killings was authorised one week after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, and in the next seven years the administration of George W. Bush ordered about 50 operations. Mr Obama has signed off on more than 350. ….
The political logic of the campaign explains much of the silence about Mr Obama’s covert wars. Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, has used every opportunity to accuse Mr Obama of being weak: high-tech bombings of alleged al-Qaeda ringleaders do not fit very well into this attack line. ….
[Many observers are] deeply uncomfortable with the way the “war on terror” can be used to blur the terms of where and when the US is at war. As Georgetown University legal scholar Rosa Brooks put it recently: “That amounts, in practice, to a claim that the executive branch has the unreviewable power to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret information discussed in a secret process by largely anonymous individuals.” ….
There are growing calls, particularly among Democrat-leaning foreign policy experts, for the next administration to establish clearer rules about exactly how drones can be used. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was head of policy planning at the state department in the first two years of the Obama administration, compares the situation to the early years of nuclear weapons, when the US was first to develop the system but other countries soon caught up. “We do not want a world where we are saying that we can decide who a drone can take out,” she says. “We will suffer enormously for setting this precedent. I do not want to be in a world where China can decide who to target.”
Geoff Dyer, “Drones: Undeclared and undiscussed“, Financial Times, 22 October 2012.
This is frightening reading … at least for me.