Monday, January 16, 2017

Predator drone: American foreign policy under Obama

"Under Obama, drones became the weapon of choice for the White House, the Predators of “Task Force Liberty” raining Hellfire missiles on suspect villages in the Northwest Frontier, wiping out women and children along with warriors in the ongoing battle against terrorism: seven times more covert strikes than launched by the Republican administration. Determined to show he could be as tough as Bush, Obama readied for war with Pakistan should it resist the US raid dispatched to kill Bin Laden in Abbottabad, for domestic purposes the leading trophy in his conduct of international affairs. Assassinations by drone, initiated under his predecessor, became the Nobel laureate’s trademark. In his first term, Obama ordered one such execution every four days — over ten times the rate under Bush.

The War on Terror, now rebaptized at presidential instruction “Overseas Contingency Operations” — a coinage to rank with the “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” of the Bush period — has proceeded unabated, at home and abroad. Torturers have been awarded impunity, while torture itself, officially disavowed and largely replaced by assassination, could still if necessary be outsourced to other intelligence services, above suspicion of maltreating captives rendered to them. Guantánamo, its closure once promised, has continued as before. Within two years of his election in 2008, Obama’s administration had created no less than sixty-three new counterterrorism agencies.

Over all of this, the presidential mantle of secrecy has been drawn tighter than ever before, with a more relentless harassment and prosecution of anyone daring to break official omertà than its predecessor. War criminals are protected; revelation of war crimes punished — notoriously, in the case of Private Manning, with an unprecedented cruelty, sanctioned by the commander-in-chief himself. The motto of the administration’s campaign of killings has been, in the words of one of its senior officials, “precision, economy and deniability.” Only the last is accurate; collateral damage covers the rest. Since the Second World War, presidential lawlessness has been the rule rather than the exception, and Obama has lived up to it. To get rid of another military regime disliked by the US, he launched missile and air attacks on Libya without congressional authorization, in violation both of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973, claiming that this assault did not constitute ‘hostilities’, because no American troops were involved, but merely “kinetic military action.” With this corollary to Nixon’s dictum that “if the President does it, that means it is not illegal,” a new benchmark for the exercise of imperial powers by the presidency has been set. The upshot, if less rousing at home, was more substantial than the raid on Abbottabad. The Libyan campaign, the easy destruction of a weak state at bay to a rising against it, refurbished the credentials of humanitarian intervention dimmed by the war in Iraq, and restored working military cooperation — as in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan — with Europe under the banner of NATO, Germany alone abstaining. An ideological and diplomatic success, Operation Odyssey Dawn offered a template for further defence of human rights in the Arab world, where these were not a domestic matter for friendly states.

The full article was written in 2013 

before the "weak Russian support" of the Syrian regime became a strong support and direct involvement in the war.

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