Curtain Raiser

We Can’t Remote-Control Our Foreign Policy, Colltalers

It’s a little over a month before the start of President Obama’s second term in office, and while Washington is abuzz with the possibility of another gridlock in Congress, over the end of the Bush-era tax cuts, the most substantial issue the new administration will face is over the C.I.A.-managed, president-approved killing drones program.
The issue has finally boiled over, despite efforts by war hawks, defense-contractor lobbyists, and elected officials deeply compromised by the Pentagon doctrine, and it’s no longer possible to trap the genie back into the bottle on this one: there are just too many ‘accidental’ civilian deaths to be accounted for.
What was supposed to be a high-tech alternative to the expensive build up and deployment of thousands of troops, hailed by war apologists as a new era of ‘surgical’ strikes and instant results, has become a large-scale, out-of-control, inefficient way of waging war against alleged U.S. enemies, while avoiding the inconveniences of accountability and the rule of law.
In the meantime, there has been little savings to be spoken of, since the troops continue to be deployed in Afghanistan, even though that conflict is supposed to have a set date to end.
What initially had been perceived as a last-ditch effort to establish a safe zone, even if by diverting a technology that could be put to much better humanitarian use, has quickly degenerated into a game-like redressing of the old shoot first, ask questions later strategy we thought had been put to rest in the conquest of the U.S. west.
Even worse, since U.S. allies got into the action, including those at odds with even the most basic democratic principles, too much of the massive resources allocated to protect Americans aboard has been instead diverted to pursue and eliminate their own enemies, often without any due process.
The Obama administration is said to be focused on developing a ‘play book’ for the use in the remote-control killings program, which put that way, sounds a lot like an oxymoron. But even if it’s driven by good intentions, such efforts are doomed to fail since they completely miss the big picture.
For as long as we waste our time trying to establish rules that would inevitably lead to ‘killing lists’ and other monstrosities, we’re missing the opportunity to reconsider our whole foreign policy, why we should reset it, and why it can never be driven by our fears or led by our generals.
Because that’s what the U.S. has been mainly setting itself up, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: a reactionary policy of aggressive defense, a fraught-with-fear strategy of striking first, so to prevent us from being attacked again, and a general staggering lack of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts that should be the core of our relationship with the world, not its discredited poor cousin.
The president can not give in to a segment of our defense community, to whom that old, paranoid credo of ‘us against them’ mentality still shapes and compromises the potential contribution they could possibly offer. Otherwise, as it’s been often repeated, the president of hope is looking ever more like his predecessor.
With over 2,500 people killed thousands of miles away by some video-game expert inside a windowless bunker, and many of them being innocent bystanders, civilians, women and children, how can we call the growing industry of killing-drone striking a valid alternative in our defense arsenal?
It’s clear that such a strategy has been sowing only more hatred against the U.S. abroad, and could never be compared with our highly trained, albeit over used, men and women already deployed. And if the drones are no alternative to the troops, how good are they for?
No wonder so many civil rights groups are extremely concerned about the rise in the manufacture of these unmanned killing machines. Given their failure in the theater of war, it’s very likely that they will wind up serving another illegal and growing domestic industry: that of surveillance of U.S. citizens.
We’re all for the technological prowess of our military, even though with a budget that easily dwarfs that of every other country in the world. But let’s not trade our moral compass for the illusion of indestructibility, of a ‘bloodless’ war, of a ‘surgical strike,’ and other fictions of modern war rhetoric.
Americans deserve a country that excels at its humanitarian principles, not only at the power of its weaponry. The world deserves a U.S. that strives to inspire other nations to treat its own citizens with respect, and its enemies with fairness. There’s a level of anonymity implied in the use of drones that runs against one of the tenets of this country: taking responsibility for our actions.
A casual observer would think that the main issue to be tackled by the new administration in the new year will be about economics: to eliminate tax cuts to the wealthy, while preserving them to the middle class and small businesses. We think, instead, that our biggest challenge will be about our moral standards. And it’s about time for the issue of remote-control killings to take center stage.
Have a great one. WC

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One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. America’s arsenal could be reduced to something reasonable. This rhetoric will not work with many Americans. Nor will it work with the world.

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