Secrecy surrounds most of these reports, unless and until a "signficant" leader has been wiped out, and then it becomes front page headlines. Whether or not the U.S. has some kind of legal justification for these attacks, while in some dispute, is not the most important question. Should there be, and according to some observers there are, pieces of paper, executive orders, or some other "formal and legal" authorization for DRONE attacks, that kind of literal, empirical and evidenciary "order" or even legal brief will do nothing to stem the tide of reciprocal recruits to AlQaeda cells that are being generated by these heinous attacks some eleven years after the equally heinous attack of 9/11 on the twin towers in Manhattan. So what started as a megaphoned, "The rest of the world will hear from us!" from Dubya on the pile of rubble in lower Manhattan has slithered into nearly official government policy, just barely shy of the US position not to take the life of another government leader, in the form of an assassination.
Everyone agrees that there will always be "collateral damage" from these DRONE attacks, innocent men, women and children, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and whose lives count for nothing, from the perspective of the antiseptic, clinical, even surgical weapon fired from a computer hard drive in some office or bunker in Nevada by some military agent "obeying orders"...which orders, by the way, have to either originate or terminate, or both, in the Oval Office.
An outside observer, especially one north of the 49th parallel, can easily see that if Obama was going to be successful as a two-term president, he had to wrest the "military" reputation, the national security epaulet from the Republicans who have held it in much of the recent past. Democrats have a reputation for "being soft" on military deployment, on "protecting the US from enemies. No longer!
Obama has not only wrestled that mantle from the Republicans he may have denied their recovery of the upper hand for a decade at least. He gave the order to "take out" bin Laden; he has increased the use of DRONES against terrorists. However, as one insightful caller to NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook asked, this morning, "How would we know if and when these DRONES were being deployed? and What is the likelihood that, at some point, they could be used, for example, to take out a foreign dictator whose elimination might be in the national interest of the US?"
The DRONE legacy is not one sufficiently legitimate to be permitted to tarnish or even diminish the legacy of a president of the United States, no matter how important the political exigency or the security threat. Furthermore, on both fronts, the US stands to enhance its reputation within the global community by discontinuing the deployment of all DRONE attacks. Such a decision would reduce the number of terrorist recruits, the number of innocent deaths, and the danger of the United States being hoisted on its own petard, should another country take advantage of the opening provided by the U.S. "leadership".
And another perspective: How long will it be before some different country, like China, or Russia, or even Iran for example, decides that it will deploy similar DRONES against a different target, one perhaps that might be "friendly" to the US? How would or could the US then protest such deployments, having already committed to their deployment in what they consider their own national interest?
DRONES, while the latest military technology to find multiple uses and theatres, are nevertheless, a step on a very slippery slope toward several potential outcomes:
- a significant increase in the potential for the 'war on terror' to continue long into the future, with no requirement or expectation of responsible termination by any participant, including the United States of America
- the detached, and thereby much less messy destruction of human lives, in the pursuit of national goals
- the enhancement of military deployments against terror threats, both public and secret
- the generation of who know's how many terrorists willing to be trained and then to commit suicide as martyrs in the service of Allah, while attacking their incarnation of Evil, the Great Satan, United States of America
- the provocation of other countries to enter the DRONE theater for their own national interests, with a similar kind of both national and international immunity that the current US deployment seems to enjoy
- the absence of any international treaty, agreement, monitoring agency, and court in which the issue of DRONE attacks can and will be addressed leaving a significant gap in the international community's capacity to regulate these weapons
- the apparent immunity of a military solution to what otherwise could and might be a diplomatic approach to serious and complicated global conficts
- the failure of the global community to address the human rights issues involved in the deployment of these weapons by the chest-thumping champion of "democracy and due process," the United States of America
While there is not, of course, unanimous agreement or a complete list of signators to the nuclear proliferation treaty, at least an attempt has been made to both monitor and regulate their acquisition, storage and deployment. A similar initiative needs to occur with respect to DRONES. Also, in the treaty, the United States must be held accountable for the innocent lives lost in the hundreds, if not thousands of DRONE attacks they have already perpetrated. The families who have lost loved ones, through no fault of their own, or of their deceased family members, must be compensated for their loss, and the world community must have an objective and transparent agency to verify that such a process has been completed.