Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Of neocons and civil liberties

A sometime reader of this humble blog and I were trading emails about one-time Bush and Giuliani adviser, Daniel Pipes, and his bizarro-world view that the Miss Universe Contest was rigged employs affirmative action for the darkies. The reader wrote,

is the 'bomb iran('s nukebomb plant)' crowd really that much more
extreme than
Hillary and Barack's ongoing bombings and 'targeted killings'?

Coincidentally, a similar "conversation" was playing out at the same time, pitting Matt Yglesias against Glenn Greenwald.

To the reader's point, I get it and struggle with that. I think in part the question answers itself. "Targeted killings" are in theory just that, targeted. Whereas bombing Iran's nuclear capabilities will require massive (bunker busting) bombs or even "tactical nuclear weapons." First, we don't really know where those capabilities are, and we can surmise that they're located amidst civilian populations. Lots of people will die. I'm not naive, drone attacks have "collateral damage (i.e., dead people)," but the scale's different.

That said, targeted killings is a euphemism for assassinations. Which are, since the Church Commission, illegal, I'm pretty sure. And when you take into account they're currently trying to whack a U.S. citizen for the content of his speech (albeit speech intended to provoke the killing of Americans), the legal, ethical, and moral issues are even starker.

And both have similar effects. The after effects of drone attacks can look just as anti-Muslim as the rubble of an Iraqi city when played on TV throughout the Arab/South Asian world, stoking further anti-Americanism.

I guess, the difference for me, is that the neocons have a reflexive instinct to bomb anything that they perceive as having an interest contrary to the U.S's. They are positively giddy at the thought of thousands of dead dark people. They are thoughtlessly, I think, obsessed with projections of American power rather than trying to neutralize an avowed opponent's leadership.

Admittedly, pretty weak tea. Glenn Greenwald certainly wouldn't approve of such reasoning and would definitely argue that there is little space between Obama's use of drone attacks and the bomb, bomb, bomb Iran crowd.

And I admit it's frustrating to see the Obama administration maintain so many policies relating to the "GWOT" and perhaps even expanding anti-civil liberties policies. Trouble is, to Matt's point, anti-civil liberties is, unfortunately, quite popular right now, and even if Obama walked down Pennsylvania Ave with bin Laden's head on a pike, Republicans would accused him of having read the pampered terror master mind his Miranda Rights.

What I do find interesting is that except on rare and, frankly, inexplicable occasions, it's been the Left having this debate as the opposition party eggs the administration on to seek greater levels of authority.



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