Killing them over there so we don't have to kill them over here
Greenwald makes an important point today which I had also been thinking is curiously missing from the currently debate:
Today’s defense of President Obama from Andrew Sullivan is devoted to refuting Conor Friedersdorf’s criticism of Obama’s drone program. Says Sullivan:
What frustrates me about Conor’s position – and Greenwald’s as well – is that it kind of assumes 9/11 didn’t happen or couldn’t happen again, and dismisses far too glibly the president’s actual responsibility as commander-in-chief to counter these acts of mass terror.
This is exactly backward. I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for virtually every act of American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?
During the Bush administration this was the lefty utilitarian argument. Sure, we talked a lot about the immorality of invading a country which didn't threaten us and the horror of harming its innocent civilians based upon a lie. Then there was the illegality and the precedent setting and the usurpation of international law. But there was also this argument and it was persuasive, I think, to a whole lot of people.
Sure, the old "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" was adopted by many. But I think the other argument, which was "we are creating more and more terrorists with these indecent acts and making ourselves less safe" made equal "common sense" to many Americans. And it's completely dropped out of the dialog --- for obvious reasons. The only people making that argument during the Bush years were liberals and today the only liberals who are prepared to oppose President Obama's policies are those who disagree on strong moral grounds. The utilitarian argument isn't made by anyone.
But it certainly should be. Warrior leadership is beloved and worshiped in most societies, but the United States is a special case and it needs to be very careful about how it indulges this primitive impulse. It's a global imperial power and therefore provides a convenient target for all the world's discontents (and not unjustifiably.) Its leadership has a responsibility to its people -- us -- to not create more enemies than already exist and to go to great lengths not to further provoke the already provoked.
A great nation would not delude itself into believing that it can kill its way to security. And that's what this is --- a violent version of security theater where we all feel soothed that the president is "taking out", one by one, all the foreigners who want to hurt us. And it's as ridiculous today as it was five years ago. Killing individuals, some bad I'm sure, along with innocents and lowly hangers-on cannot fix this problem. Indeed,as Glenn pointed out, it's exacerbating it.
It was suggested to me the other day in an email that this is being done because the administration knows the country will lose its mind and become an authoritarian nightmare if we have another terrorist attack and so they have no choice. But I think there's an excellent chance that the myopic total reliance
on this strategy will make that inevitable. Can it be that we have seriously come to believe that our flying robots and satellite surveillance make it possible to kill them all over there so they can't kill us here? If that's the case we are all in grave danger.