Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Argument Clinic - or "How I Disagree with the White House"

This isn't an argument... It's just contradiction...

Lots of fun lately watching people on the talking box "discuss" things. 

Quite often it's as Jonathon Bernstein pointed out - the "out" party gainsaying the "in" party, regardless of where they stood when they were in power, a la Monty Python. The President or Democrats say one thing and the Republicans are instantly against it - especially if Grover passes it along as the official line on the weekly phone call.

However, I think one subject has been gaining some traction lately. It is something that people can form a little bit of a personal opinion about and a subject that was not much of an issue a few years back. It is the use of a 'kill list' and its widespread use around the world and across borders.

I have asked a few people if they can think of something illegal or unconstitutional the President has done. I rarely get a response. Often it is something easily disproved by a quick trip to or [As a side note - anyone concerned by how "Liberal" these sites are needs to go back to them, you would love how they have been finding fault with the President. They are equal-opportunity fact-checkers.] This is the one thing on the top of my head that I have questions about - legality.

Men and Machines

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Drones have been in use by the military in a wide variety of purposes since World War I. The MQ-9 Reaper is the current top-of-the-line version of the drones that first arrived in the 1990s. The US Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency use these to kill targets around the world - mainly in the 'Stans - 309 in Pakistan, alone. However, there have been strikes in Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines.

These missions have been carried out from bases around the world. Besides bases in-theater, there are now 64 known drone bases in the US. Some of these bases are for training, some of these bases are for war fighting, some of them are for national defense. Some are all three. Most of the drones are for optical/signal surveillance only. Some can be configured to carry ordnance.

Unfortunately, this means that some of these birds can "accidentally" spy on you (even though the military is not allowed to do so). I'll be the first person to say that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. However, as much as I trust the military, I harbor less trust for local and state jurisdictions operating these UAVs. Granted - there are the legitimate uses we hear about, but my money is that there are as many times (if not more) in which somebody was wondering why that remote control plane was orbiting their yard while they were sunbathing.

On the civilian front, there is a growing culture of amateur UAV pilots who are using their camera equipped drones for fun. Some of them are inadvertently catching evidence of illegal activity. My thoughts on this are about the same as my issues with Law Enforcement using UAVs. Pervs will Perv.

Legality and Targeted Killing

I can understand how it is OK to kill an enemy combatant with any weapon. I was in the Army. We were soldiers first, regardless of our MOS. Granted, I was a Bass Guitar Player for two different units that were without arms rooms, but I was still a soldier and knew what it could entail.

From my historian perspective, I know that you win wars by the correct application of force. Add in a little politics... A little economics... A little public relations... and you have a won war. This one, I am not too sure about.

I know that assassination is illegal. You can't just go out and kill someone who your country doesn't like. In the realm of targeted killing, however, the target has lost protection of the Geneva Convention through a "allegedly taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise". The 'allegedly' part is what concerns me. The only time I hear the word 'alleged' in conversation, there is a court, a judge, and a jury involved. Many of the targets had it coming to them, I am sure. Some of them concern me (there I go using that word again).

None of my reading has given me sufficient satisfaction that due process is being followed and that some attacks have been badly-researched, badly-thought-out, or badly-executed.

Much of what has been happening in Pakistan and elsewhere has been the result of the CIA, not the US Military. Concerns have been raised as a result of both this and that Pakistan is not "a zone of armed conflict." Even though we may see this as being a fully legal act, I doubt that Pakistan, a sovereign nation the last time I checked, considers it to be against the law. And 74% of Pakistanis consider America to be an enemy... hunh. I wonder why.

I can only imagine how the US would feel if we were to suddenly experience a spate of (officially) unauthorized attacks by a nation-state on American citizens because they are involved in some sort of military adventure in a 3rd-party country. I think that would last about 2.4 seconds before we would be going on alert as a nation.