No, seriously, this is good news, mostly. On the plus side, we will almost certainly take out more evil people before they can plan and carry out additional senseless destruction against innocents:
The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. The policy shift marks a significant expansion of the clandestine drone war against an al-Qaeda affiliate that has seized large pieces of territory in Yemen and is linked to a series of terrorist plots against the United States.
U.S. officials said that Obama approved the use of “signature” strikes this month and that the killing of an al-Qaeda operative near the border of Yemen’s Marib province this week was among the first attacks carried out under the new authority. The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year.
But what are "signature" strikes, exactly?
The expanded authority will allow the CIA and JSOC to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence “signatures” — patterns of behavior that are detected through signals intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance, and that indicate the presence of an important operative or a plot against U.S. interests. Until now, the administration had allowed strikes only against known terrorist leaders who appear on secret CIA and JSOC target lists and whose location can be confirmed.
Wow. It's excellent to see us taking the gloves off against Al Qaeda by refusing to be paralyzed by exceedindly cumbersome and politically correct rules of engagement. But doesn't this plan sound just a tad bit risky, in the sense that we're much more prone to vaporize non-terrorists by accident? We're at war, and collateral damage occurs in war. Americans understand that. But I'd imagine that the Left will raise gales of criticism over this fresh expansion of an undeclared, lethal military action in Yemen -- especially because it could result in more innocent Muslims getting killed by mistake, thus "creating more terrorists," or whatever. Just kidding! Some may gripe about it a little, then quickly revert to waving the flag and boasting about how tough Obama is on terrorism (have they mentioned he got bin Laden?). I'm all in favor of this president taking an aggressive approach to dispatching horrible, bloodthirsty terrorists before they can kill us. It's been one area of strength in his generally abysmal presidency. But it continues to astonish me how quickly liberals can flip to cheering aggressive uses of force by an "imperial" president, now that the Commander-In-Chief has a 'D' next to his name. The polling on this stuff betrays the pure, unadulterated partisanship of it all, suggesting that many on the Left simply aren't serious about national security. They are serious about hating Republicans. Parting thought: Riddle me this, Lefties. Why is using high-tech drones to blow Al Qeada members to smithereens in an instant perfectly fine -- proof, in fact, of Obama's badassness -- while employing 'enhanced interrogation techinques' to extract key intel from captured enemies is horrible, terrible "torture" that shocks the conscience and represents a blot on our national reputation? Explain that.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography