Foreign Relations

Drone Strikes: Questionably Legal, Certainly Not Ethical, and Most Unwise

Above, watch Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay Carney explain that the drone strikes are “legal”, “ethical”, and “wise.” This has got to be one the biggest loads of crap I have heard since Obama was elected in 2008.

The legality of these drone strikes is highly questionable, as Doug Mataconis notes over at OTB. I fully expect court challenges to these strikes. Whether or not they succeed is a matter of speculation for people far more trained in the arcane arts of the law than I.

They are certainly not ethical. There have always been deep ethical qualms about killing human beings. In the modern era, we have notions such as due process, trials, courts of appeal, and judicial oversight, as well as punishment for those who kill wrongly. In combat situations, we accept homicide as par for the course, with both sides shooting at each other to kill. But this is not the same situation. This is picking an individual and raining missiles on him via robot death kites. This is not war. This is assassination. There are no restraints nor oversight. If you have a code of ethics that allows you to just kill people, on a whim, without any restraint whatsoever, you are a deeply troubled person and should be committed to a mental hospital. When will Obama go?

They are most definitely not wise. If anything, the drone strikes have only hardened al-Qaeda against us, and have turned us into enemies to the locals there, killing and maiming at will. Is it wise to “double-tap” targets and blow up emergency responders? Is it wise when only one in fifty of our victims are actually bad guys? No, this is not wise. This is most certainly unwise.

Anti-Hagel Movement Symbol of Conservative Hypocrisy

Chuck Hagel

Conservatives are always thumping their chests about America, and how we must defend America, and how we must be American, and how if we ever dare criticize the government, we’re hating America. It’s a common thread that has been going on for at least the past ten years, if not more, and was pretty effective in dominating liberals from the turn of the century until at least 2006, though it wouldn’t be until Obama’s election in 2008 that the narrative actually fell apart.

However, is this really true? Are conservatives really all about America? I have some doubts, doubts that are being fanned by the recent conservative alliance against Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, himself a conservative Republican. I don’t usually wade into these high-profile topics, leaving them to be picked by others, but there’s one thread here, a counterpoint to the thread of conservatives loving America to their dying breath, that I just have to comment on.

The Cato Institute has been supportive of Chuck Hagel’s nomination, with Chris Preble, their senior foreign policy scholar, noting that “Chuck Hagel Is Not Controversial.” He’s no libertarian dove, but as an enlisted man who was wounded in Vietnam, he is a damn sight better than most people who are nominated for the role. This is not what infuriates the right, however. Instead, it was his remarks concerning Israel, and more importantly, the Great Israeli Lobby, also known as AIPAC:

Americans Should Not Take Sides in Palestine


A curious thing happened to my Twitter feed late last week: the official Twitter account of the Israeli Defense Forces started appearing with greater and greater frequency. This baffled me, as I don’t subscribe to the IDF (indeed, I had no clue they even had Twitter) until I realized that it was all being retweeted by many, many conservative (and even some libertarian) friends.

By now we are well aware of the conflict going on between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli government in Jerusalem. I say this, and not between the Palestinian and Israeli people, because I think this is a conflict mostly driven by political ideologies and politicians’ stupidity, and that the vast bulk of the people living in either territory would just want it to stop. They want the rockets to stop falling, the bombs to stop falling, the bulldozing to stop wrecking, the dead to stop dying.

Yet amazingly, Americans all across the right-wing spectrum are chanting for more death, more violence, more destruction, more chaos, in an area that really has nothing to do with anything American and which a victory for either side will mean absolutely nothing for our national interests (aside from, perhaps, whether or not we’ll bring on the Eschaton this year.) Meanwhile, the United States gives over $3 billion a year to Israel in military aid, a cost that—in these dire straits, facing a fiscal cliff—we can and must cut.

Nevermind the budgetary impact—I feel what we’re doing here is deeply immoral.

So much for the “Peace President”: US to Invade Mali?

youth vote

From the AP, it appears we may be invading yet another third-world country:

ALGEIRS, Algeria (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Algeria’s assistance on Monday for any future military intervention in Mali, pressing the North African nation to provide intelligence — if not boots on the ground — to help rout the al-Qaida-linked militants across its southern border.

Clinton, on the first stop of a five-day trip overseas, met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the United States and its allies ramped up preparations to fight northern Mali’s breakaway Islamist republic.

When Mali’s democratically elected leader was ousted in a military coup in March, Tuareg rebels seized on the power vacuum and within weeks took control of the north, aided by an Islamist faction. The Islamists then quickly ousted the Tuaregs and took control of half the country.

So much for Barack Obama being the peace president, ending the disastrous interventionist foreign policy of George W. Bush. Have we learned nothing in the past decade? We go into Afghanistan to kick out the Taliban and “restore democracy,” and end up getting Harmid Karzai, more Islamists, and a bunch of people who hate us. We go into Iraq to kick out Saddam Hussein, and what we get is a country wracked by violence and bloodshed, more militant Islamists, and a bunch of people who hate us. We go into Libya to help with that country’s rebellion, and what do we get? An unstable country, a bunch of Islamists, and four dead Americans—including our Ambassador.

Mitt Romney Swings….And Misses On Venezuela

Hugo Chavez

Over the past couple of days, there has been a back and forth between President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign over the threat, if any, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez poses to the US. It started Tuesday when President Obama was interviewed about ties between Iran and Venezuela:

Obama had been asked by Miami’s America TeVe if he was concerned about what has been a public show of solidarity between Chavez and Iran.

“The truth is that we’re always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe,” the president replied. “But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”

“We have to be vigilant,” Obama went on. “My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don’t always see.”

The hyperventilating overblown rhetoric that has resulted from hawkish neocon Republicans is of course predictable.

In a written statement, Romney assailed what he called “a stunning and shocking comment by the president.”

“It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill. Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country’s borders,” Romney said.

End The Cuban Embargo

On Thursday, Jaime Daremblum, who is a former Costa Rican ambassador to the US and now a fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote a piece called The Cuba Fallacy. In it he tries to argue against lifting the nearly 50 year old US embargo against Cuba.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “The U.S. embargo against Cuba is the single biggest reason that Washington and Havana do not enjoy better relations. If we want the island nation to become a democracy, we should drop sanctions and pursue a policy of aggressive engagement.”

It is a simple and seductive argument, which explains why so many people have embraced it. Unfortunately, it is based on a fallacious reading of history and a naïve understanding of the Cuban dictatorship.

Over the past four decades, every American president who has pursued a serious rapprochement with Havana — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — has been left shaking his head in frustration. Whenever the United States has extended an olive branch, the Castro regime has responded with an act of foreign aggression (such as lending military support to Communist forces in Africa or killing four Cuban-American pilots) or domestic repression (such as jailing a U.S. citizen on bogus espionage charges) so provocative that it effectively ruined any chance of détente.

Daremblum also goes on to detail some of the human rights abuses committed by the Castro regime.

Let’s Get Out of NATO

I’m told there was a NATO summit in Chicago over the weekend (as well as a historic G8 summit at Camp David at about the same time.) I’m also told that there were a lot of protests which got violent.

The main reason that people seem to be protesting the NATO summit is that it’s somehow a tool of the 1% to continue to oppress the 99%. While I agree with the dislike of NATO, that’s a bad argument to be using. NATO is not economic; it is military and foreign policy oriented.

As much as it puts a bad taste in my mouth, though, I will agree with these anti-NATO types on one thing: at a minimum, the United States should not be in NATO; and at the far end, NATO itself should be dismantled.

The explicit reason for NATO’s existence was to combat the Soviets, after Stalin and his minions drew the Iron Curtain around Eastern Europe and began the Cold War. It’s right there in its name: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It’s original mission, as defined by its first General Secretary, was to “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

That was in 1949. It’s 2012 right now. The entire geopolitical structure has changed. There’s no need to keep the Germans down; there’s no Americans to keep in; and while Russia is still run by a bunch of jerks, they’re hardly the Communist country they used to be. Indeed, it is telling that the first action that NATO engaged in had nothing to do with its original purpose, and did not even take place in Europe, or the North Atlantic, but rather in Afghanistan.

Your World In Pictures

Visual media is a powerful way to spread a message. In the modern era of the Internet, we’ve learned this quite well—there are entire websites devoted to silly images that absorb you entirely. In the spirit of the 21st century, then, I want to offer some images that I feel sum up our modern age. Let me know if you agree, and add your own suggestions in the comments.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is your world in pictures. And this is why those of us out here who can see this decide to fight.





How can you not see the madness?

Everything Wrong With The Libertarian Movement, Part 4: Foreign Policy

In my previous posts, I’ve been writing about the problems libertarianism has today, the difficulties it has trying to work with the American public. First, I talked about rhetoric. Then, I wrote about intellectual property rights. Third, I devoted some time to anarcho-capitalism. Now, in what I plan on being my last post in this series (until and unless a new topic arises that warrants my attention; feel free to send suggestions) I want to focus on foreign policy, and how libertarianism, so far, has been fairly inadequate.

There seem to be two chief positions in the libertarian movement on foreign policy. The first is the view taken by Robert Higgs, who wrote in The Independent Review (from the Independent Institute) last fall that “Warmongering libertarians are ipso facto not libertarians.” In the other corner lies neolibertarians like Jon Henke and* people like Eric Dondero, who wrote on our blog, in a comment, that:

When you say “less aggressive foreign policy,” what you really mean to say is “more girly-manish foreign policy,” or cowardness, or just downright surrendertarianism.

These two extremes, honestly, do not have any place in the libertarian movement. While I agree with Higgs that “war is the health of the state,” and the half-century has shown that this government is largely incompetent when it comes to defending us abroad and we shouldn’t be involved in these expeditions, we cannot completely pull back and have a pacificst foreign policy. War is inevitable; it happens, sometimes by people who don’t like us. And sometimes, there are justifications for executing operations in foreign countries.

Swear on the Constitution

Our U.S. Constitution is a remarkably efficient document. It is our only founding charter. Many times changed, rendered, adumbrated. But it’s essence is unshakable. Written in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting, edited against his will, pored over, discussed, hushed about, while it lay about some small wooden tables in independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Americans believe, that the Constitution is the link between our government and our lives. Congress and the Executive, can not overstep the harmony that exists, by each American following his path of liberty. Unfortunately, too many harmful minds, want too much power in this country. Power never vested in the Constitution. Power never meant to be handled by bureaucrats or officials or committees. We need to change all this. The oath of office should be sworn on the Constitution. In the Capital Rotunda. Among the historicity of remains from past great ages of the United States.

Drones in our night skies. Unelected lawyers interpreting the U.S. Constition. Surveillance. Internet spying. Blackouts and Stasi-like encroachements. Torturing. Deaths and internment of American citizens. Socialization of medicare for the elderly, and healthcare for those in mid-age. Food stamps and deductibles for people who do not work. Taxation over representation. Data-accumulation. Groping at airports. Fumbling and nefarious Justice Department officials. Cronies. Welfare abuses. War and destruction as an industry, like Hollywood and Corporate America! Blame-games. Undermining of basic civil rights. Monetarism-mongering! Unaccountability and state-sponsored fear. Campaigns of division. Solutions disguised for self-created problems.

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