President Obama had a choice when he entered office in January 2009. Instead of calling a halt to the Bush administration’s use of summary execution by Predator drone, he expanded the practice, with no thought to what the world would look like once other countries and leaders began dispatching their political enemies by remote control in the name of national self-defense. With the use of China-produced lethal drones by the Nigerian government, the Global Drone Wars have begun.
It’s hard to imagine how a Harvard-educated lawyer could fail to comprehend the concept of suspect, or to draw the obvious conclusion from the proportion of innocent men detained at Guantánamo Bay: that roughly the same proportion of men executed by Predator drone in so-called signature strikes have been innocent as well.
Obama’s persistent failure to consider anything but short-term political expedience as a guide in setting policy led him to embrace drone killing as “smart war”. The price paid later on down the line will be the global instability created by a precedent in some ways even worse than the US development and use of nuclear arms, because it is so much more insidious.
Lethal drones are within the reach of even the least powerful of political leaders and the pettiest of despots. They will follow Obama’s lead in denouncing their enemies as “evil” before stripping them of their rights along with their lives. By promoting remote-control killing under a delusional pretext of “just war” Obama has spearheaded a global war on universal human rights.
As Obama’s presidency draws to a close, the White House seems quite concerned with securing his legacy. What will it be? Relations with Cuba? Negotiations with Iran? Obamacare? No, the true legacy of the Obama administration will be the Global Drone Wars.
For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, Chapter 4: Lethal Creep