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Friday, February 8, 2013

Predator Drones and American Exceptionalism

It’s estimated that US drone attacks have killed between 3,000 and 4,500 people since 2002... and that less than 10% of those were the actual targeted terrorist killers. Among the “collateral damage” are about 200 children.

Now, I will listen to arguments that these remote-control killings are necessary and justified; however, if that is what you believe, you cannot, in my opinion, make any claim as to the US’s moral leadership in the world. The argument that “the behavior of {country X} is worse,” doesn’t cut it. We now, as official policy, strike and kill people in other nations with whom we are not at war. We also have a policy of (foreign) assassination. Furthermore, we practice torture and often employ agents in foreign countries to do this work (“extraordinary rendition”).

So, if you believe this is all justified, fine, but please put aside any claims to any moral superiority.

The idea of other countries acting this way­—targeting victims in the US with the use of drones, for example—is of course, unthinkable. But this notion that we alone are justified in such action is the original meaning behind the expression “American exceptionalism,” which was first used by the Brits under Tony Blair. It did not mean that the US is exceptional in the sense of “the best,” it meant that rules that apply to everyone else do not apply to us.  We are the “exceptions” to the rule. We are exempt. For whatever reason, the usage has since changed to reflect the more pedestrian interpretation.

So, “American exceptionalism,” in its original coinage, is in fact the justification for killing people in foreign countries by remote control. Can you say “manifest destiny?”

The post-9-11 CIA Predator Drone attacks on al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan began under President Bush. But they have vastly increased under President Obama’s tenure. Now, why is this so?  Isn’t Obama a ‘leftist’?  Didn’t he campaign on closing Guantanamo, ending the Iraq War and in general reining in military excesses? Was he some kind of closet right-wing militarist who showed his true colors once he gained the office of Supreme Commander?

Of course not. When faced with the reality of the military-industrial complex, he and his cabinet, including (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lacked the personal strength and will to oppose them. This is one of the pitfalls of hiring a weak chief executive.

What would have happened if Obama or (W) Bush were president during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962?  Would either of them have had the will, wisdom and personal power to say ‘No’ to the Joint Chiefs’ recommended course of action?  Would we still be here today if it wasn’t someone of the caliber of John Kennedy in the White House at the time? Perhaps it takes someone who has experienced the horrors of war firsthand, such as an Eisenhower, Kennedy or a McCain, to man-up to the task of responsibly executing the job of Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful nation.