Do we trust the President to have that kind of power?
If that answer is no, it’s no.
But I sense that for some, the answer is: it depends.
It depends on who the President is.
I don’t want to say some of the people professing universal opposition to such strikes are fooling themselves, but I’d like to see the reaction if a President they voted for, admired and trusted made the case that a key jihadist operative was holed up in some remote cave in the Montana wilderness, and this was the best way to take him out.
Proper debate would ensue on many levels. Would this strike be necessary? In a way, the whole notion of hitting our citizens on our soil is profoundly remote. The justification for drones is the lack of ability to attack from the ground.
Drone strikes make sense above the moonscapes of the Middle East, where we have sparse military forces and no police. In America, enemy combatants can be taken out more conventionally. But are there any scenarios in which a drone might be the last resort for the proper eradication of an enemy combatant?
Even if that is a tiny list, it becomes unwise to make a blanket claim of something we absolutely would not do.
For all my distaste for this administration’s foreign policy acumen, they are actually right not to say never, as Senator Paul wished.
Black-and-white pronouncements are often tricky in a murky war filled with judgment calls. What is an “imminent” threat? What is a “non-combatant?” And does citizenship evaporate the moment one joins an enemy and takes up arms against the United States?
I believe it does. Some Senators I have great respect for may disagree.
But one thing is clear. These vital issues are made vastly more difficult by a White House that has enormous trust issues. I do not trust them to boldly fight terror, and I do not trust them to tell the truth about the things they actually do.
This makes an already challenging issue a total mess for a nation that just wants to be safe and honor the Constitution at the same time.
It is impossible to know if a domestic drone attack issue will arise during the remaining years of Obama, or thereafter. But the debate will be easier to navigate come January 2017, if we are swearing in a President we can trust.