Sit Down and Shut Up! (Because we are many and you are not)

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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127 Responses

  1. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Ethan you are starting to scare me. That might be a good thing. Keep up the good work.Report

  2. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    If your response every time a major party candidate upsets you is to go vote for a third-party candidate who has zero chance of winning, then don’t be surprised when the two major parties don’t give two craps what you think.

    How did the GOP turn into a far-right party? Because the far-right didn’t turn their back when Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and gave citizenship to ten million illegal immigrants or when George W. Bush signed Medicare Part D and NCLB into law. They wrote some nasty letters, got pissed, but then they went out and voted Jim DeMint, Scott Walker, and so on into office.

    That’s how every successful movement of the past umpteen years has worked. We need a smarter left, one that understands more about how coalition-building and successful social movements have been built in the past and in the present.

    People can complain that Solnit (or myself) don’t kow-tow enough to yelling and whining, but she (and I think I) are absolutely right. And I mean, go ahead and prove us wrong. Build some coalitions. Start creating legislative change. Do whatever. But, if you’re main response to Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or whomever getting a combined 2% in November is to vote for Gary Johnson again or whoever the Greens put up again in 2016 when he gets the same two percent, then I’m not going to really care.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      Also, again, Gary Johnson has made no guarantees he’d stop the drone war.

      http://dailycaller.com/2012/04/09/thedcs-jamie-weinstein-gary-johnsons-strange-foreign-policy/

      Johnson said that while he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean he would necessarily stop drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, even though he believes they create more enemies than they kill.

      “I would want leave all options on the table,” Johnson saidReport

      • On this front you raise an good point Jesse. With respect to bases though, he said he would consider it if the Afghans would allow it.

        And keeping drones on the table is very different from using them, and admitting that they do more harm than good in 99% of cases is a far cry from either of the other two candidates.

        Also, until this pops up somewhere other than the Daily Caller, an outlet with a vested interest in maligning Johnson, I will regard this instance with some skepticism.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          I doubt the Daily Caller, right-wing rag it is, is going to straight up make up quotes from an interview.

          As for the rest, so it’s OK if he’s thoughtful before he decides to sends a drone out that ends up killing some children? I mean, I actually think it’s a more reasonable position than no drones ever, but I find it a little hard to put together the theoretical Gary Johnson libertarians and disaffected liberals have championed against his actual policy here.Report

        • Keeping drones on the table in fact sounds suspiciously like the position held by then Candidate Obama in 2008, along with the fact that it’s certainly in line with many of the opinions and legal analysis conducted by now State Department attorneys like Harold Koh prior to 2009…

          …that is to say, I’m not sure the daylight you think exists will actually exist once someone is in power.

          The people that have been writing a lot of the justifications and legal underpinnings of the drone targeting program and the overall series of counter-terrorism policies today were some of the biggest critics of the logic utilized by the Bush Administration.Report

    • “If your response every time a major party candidate upsets you is to go vote for a third-party candidate who has zero chance of winning, then don’t be surprised when the two major parties don’t give two craps what you think.”

      Do you have a suggestion for an alternative course of action?

      “That’s how every successful movement of the past umpteen years has worked. We need a smarter left, one that understands more about how coalition-building and successful social movements have been built in the past and in the present.”

      What is your evidence for this?

      “People can complain that Solnit (or myself) don’t kow-tow enough to yelling and whining, but she (and I think I) are absolutely right. And I mean, go ahead and prove us wrong. Build some coalitions. Start creating legislative change. Do whatever. But, if you’re main response to Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or whomever getting a combined 2% in November is to vote for Gary Johnson again or whoever the Greens put up again in 2016 when he gets the same two percent, then I’m not going to really care.”

      Again, do you have an argument you want to make, or do you just want to continue asserting your point until the cows come home?

      Electing a president has nothing…NOTHING, to do with legislative action. I address the legislature through my Congressman and Senators. I address my President through the national election.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ethan Gach says:

        1. Elect more Senator’s and congresspeople who are against war and drone strikes, they’ll call a President to task when he goes to war illegally or tries to use CIA for drone strikes.

        2. Actual successful movements such as unions, gays, and so on for the past fifty years. Politicians didn’t spontaneously start loving unions. Unions had to fight and show they were important enough bloc for politicians to care more about worker’s rights than voting with Evil Corporation #6.

        3. Yes, vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or whomever this year. Fantastic. But, the day after the election, start working to create more people that agree with you on every single political level instead of just being upset the vast majority voted for more drone strikes and death.

        4. If you think legislative elections have little connection to what President’s can pull of, compare Obama’s first two years to his second two years or Bush’s first six years to his final two years.Report

        • Jesse,

          The example of unions probably does more to support Ethan’s argument than yours, and there’s an argument to be made that the same is true of the gay rights movement, though that is less certain.

          Unions as a whole have been under attack in this country for a very long time, with that pace obviously accelerating of late. Not coincidentally, their membership has been declining rapidly on the whole, especially in the private sector; even in the public sector, collective bargaining rights for teachers are heavily and consistently threatened.

          But not all unions are doing poorly. If you take a look at the unions that are still doing reasonably well, you’ll see that they are not coincidentally the unions that form single issue coalitions and do not provide a reliable vote for either party. Heck, despite the intense anti-union atmosphere from conservatives the IAFF (which historically makes a point of working closely with both parties) has been consistently able to get overwhelming House support in both GOP and Dem-controlled Congresses for a national collective bargaining bill, though it always falls three or four votes short of breaking the inevitable filibuster vote in the Senate. Ditto the police unions. It was no coincidence that the police and firefighter unions, which both make a point of building issue-based coalitions, were exempted from Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining bill.

          Similarly, the Teamsters have been able to remain a strong union over the years – even despite their unsavory ties to the mob in the 60s and 70s – by focusing on single-issue coalition building.

          By that same token, if you want to know why Evil Corporation #6 is able to consistently succeed, I suspect you’ll find that it is in no small part because it, too, is entirely interested in building single-issue coalitions. Most Evil Multi-national Conglomerates, you will find, are perfectly happy to spread their donations and support to either party.

          The point is that if a group of voters with a common single-issue interest ties itself to a party and subsumes its own identity to that party’s success, then that group of voters will quickly come to: (a) be taken for granted by that party; (b) only be able to achieve anything when the party to which they are tied is in power; (c) temper the type of legislation or executive action it seeks to limit political risk to the party that it is tied to; and (d) become an easy target for the other party when that other party is in power.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      If your response every time a major party candidate upsets you is to go vote for a third-party candidate who has zero chance of winning, then don’t be surprised when the two major parties don’t give two craps what you think.

      That works in reverse too – if you’ll vote for anything wearing the right coloured ribbon then why should the party concern itself with your opinions? After all, they already have your vote.

      Only choosy voters get courted.Report

    • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      How did the GOP turn into a far-right party? Because the far-right didn’t turn their back when Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and gave citizenship to ten million illegal immigrants or when George W. Bush signed Medicare Part D and NCLB into law. They wrote some nasty letters, got pissed, but then they went out and voted Jim DeMint, Scott Walker, and so on into office.

      This assumes the types you’re talking about and comparing with the GOP example already have people within the major parties to vote for. You can’t vote for your Jim DeMint if you don’t have your own Jim DeMint.Report

    • If your response every time a major party candidate upsets you is to go vote for a third-party candidate who has zero chance of winning, then don’t be surprised when the two major parties don’t give two craps what you think.

      Maybe if it’s “every time” that the politician upsets you, you might have point.

      But that doesn’t apply to, say, Friedersdorf’s opinion. He didn’t say that Obama happened to “upset him.” He said that Obama engaged in a policy that for him was so morally despicable that he would refuse to align himself with the president. One of his analogies, I believe, was deciding not to vote for any pro-slavery candidate, even if the only two likely to win are pro-slavery.

      Are there problems with Friedersdorf’s approach? You bet there are! There are strategic concerns about who actually stands to win if it’s not Obama and there are other interests to balance on which Obama probably does good. But Friedersdorf did not make his decision on some whim.Report

  3. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Oh, and there was never a chance to primary Obama. Even at worse, the guy still had an 80% approval rating among Democrats and his highest approval ratings were among liberal Democrats. So unless you think an insurgent Evan Bayh/Joe Lieberman ticket would win a Democratic primary, then slow the drone war down, good luck with that.Report

    • “So unless you think an insurgent Evan Bayh/Joe Lieberman ticket would win a Democratic primary, then slow the drone war down, good luck with that.”

      A primary challenge calls many people’s bluff. Those who say that Obama is the lesser of two evils have no right since none of them advocated anyone else, ever, which makes them complicit in his lesser evil being forced on us.

      And a primary challenge doesn’t have to win to change the conversation and shift the presumptive nominee on key issues in order that they don’t risk alienating a small but key part of their base.

      Why you are so militant on this point is beyond me.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ethan Gach says:

        Because primary challenges at the Presidential level don’t actually do that. All they do is waste resources, hurt the incumbent, and make winning the primary next to impossible. Also, you had four years to find a primary opponent. The fact it didn’t happen means that anyone who would’ve run (and btw, who would’ve been this white knight? Russ Feingold? Wait, he’s a co-chair of Obama’s campaign. OK, Dennis Kucinich?) ran the numbers and saw there was a zero chance of even getting enough coverage to break through.

        And I hate to break this to you, but I’m going to guess we’re going to find out on Election Day that hardcore lefties who think Obama hasn’t been liberal enough on foreign policy are small, but they aren’t actually key part of the base. But, like I said, gay people didn’t used to be a key part of the Democratic base either, but they organized and made it so they were.Report

  4. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Liberal pundits and partisan operatives like to talk about how inclusive their philosophy is. Look at us on the left, we actually tolerate dissent and discussion—unlike those unquestioning group thinkers on the right! Except that, as has been pointed out time and again, breaking ranks at the wrong moment (and it is almost never the right one) is severely discouraged.

    The core difference being that the right seeks to silence their moderates, while liberals seek to silence the left. Which is arguably a substantial part of why the country keeps moving to the right: it ensures that the “middling” position is always further to the right.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Refer to my prior comment.

      The GOP tried to shut up the right. But, then the right continued to organize and then they won. The Left gets slapped down, complains, and then fails to organize for the next election, so they’re surprised when the moderates and center-left types win.

      If the Left wants to create a country they like better, work make that change popular. But that’s not enough. The next step is to make it more beneficial to be against war than for it, so that it’s beneficial for politicians to rally behind change instead of fighting it. Any movement, conservative, liberal, or moderate that has succeeded in this country has managed to do both of those things.

      That’s how it works. That’s how it has always worked. Also, start small. Get elected to county council seats, water and sewer commissions, school boards, and even state legislatures. That’s how the GOP went from the party of Rockefeller and Eisenhower to Reagan and Bush.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        There is a certain kind of leftist that would rather be a noble loser to history than actually win and need to govern.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to NewDealer says:

          “There is a certain kind of leftist that would rather be a noble loser to history than actually win and need to govern.”

          Again, more slogans. Do you have a point to make? Evidence to support it? Reasoning that gets us there?

          Why do you presume the position is an ego trip, and nothing else? And what at all does your assertion that it is have to do with the validity of the argument itself?

          And this nonsense about governing…you do realize that my job as a voter is to hold the elected official to account, not make up excuses for them based on other voters they have to attend to? Why should I give up my one convictions just so other people’s can be satisfied?Report

          • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Ethan Gach says:

            http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jun/18/curse-political-purity/

            Harvard Law professor Roberto Unger launched a youtube video sometime in June about why Obama needed to lose. The reasons seem largely because of Obama’s portrayl of the progressive agenda.

            What would the result of Obama be? The election of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I have yet to see how this is going to help the progressive agenda except allowing some holier than thou leftists to feel good about themselves for not voting for Obama. What kind of judges and justices is Romney going to nominate for the bench? What economic policies will he enact? Nothing progressive.

            To quote the article:

            “The etherialists who are too good to stoop toward the “lesser evil” of politics—as if there were ever anything better than the lesser evil there—naively assume that if they just bring down the current system, or one part of it that has disappointed them, they can build a new and better thing of beauty out of the ruins. Of course they never get the tabula rasa on which to draw their ideal schemes. What they normally do is damage the party closest to their professed ideals. Third parties are run by people who make the best the enemy of their own good and bring down that good. Theodore Roosevelt’s’ Bull Moose variant of his own Republican Party drained enough Republican votes to let the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, win. (His voters, believing he would not “send our boys to war,” saw the prince become a frog in World War I.) George H. W. Bush rightly believes he was sabotaged by the crypto-Republican Ross Perot, who helped Bill Clinton win. Ralph Nader siphoned crucial votes from Al Gore to give us George W. Bush.”Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to KatherineMW says:

      The core difference being that the right seeks to silence their moderates, while liberals seek to silence the left.

      That has some provocative truth in it, KatherineMV. It wouldn’t survive the ruthless fisking we’ve become accustomed to around here lately, but it’s food for thought rather than just grist for the mill.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Domestic government spending is at an all-time high. Multiple states have legalized gay marriage, with more on the way. Multiple states have legalized medical marijuana, though the feds shut that down.

      Tell me again about how the country’s moving to the right?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Oh, and Obamacare and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        “Tell me again about how the country’s moving to the right?”

        Continental drift.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The president has a secret assassination list that requires no jury, no trial, not even any evidence. Congress isn’t necessary for the process. There’s not even any real way to know if Congress can veto any given person on the list or not.

        The left argues that, hey, this is the way the world works now.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Economic inequality has been rising for decades. The only group of Americans who are doing economically better now than they were 30 years ago are the top 20%, and most of that’s accounted for by massive increases in income by the top couple percent; for everyone else, wages have stagnated or declined. The government gave banks a fuckton of money as a reward for being irresponsible and hasn’t done anything significant to prevent them from doing the same thing again and causing another recession. People who point any of this out are dismissed as entitled college students without an agenda, and the idea that the only income class who have been getting richer actually maybe should pay a little more taxes is heavily disputed. Debates about the deficit are virtually all in terms of what should be cut, not in terms of revenues, even though revenues have been substantially cut over the last 30 years as well.

        On the foreign policy side, it’s now acceptable to openly launch an aggressive war against a country for no better reason than that you don’t like their policies; even in the time of Vietnam the government at least had to pretend it was defensive (Gulf of Tonkin falsehood). Torture is now an accepted policy option rather than a moral anathema. Government spying on citizens has become broadly accepted. As for Jaybird’s question of why I attribute these policies to the right, it’s because they were initiated and implemented by neoconservatives and by Republican administrations, and Democrats have primarily limited themselves to continuing them.

        On social issues, I will acknowledge that the US has become more liberal, though practical movement towards marajuana legalization has been zero and the War on Drugs continues apace.Report

  5. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    The purpose of engaging in the political process is not to register our viewpoints.

    It is to get stuff done, to accomplish things. This demands that we compromise and make bargains, very often with people and ideas that we find loathsome.

    Scorning this as Faustian betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of politics; it turns politics into a theological battle, in which ideological purity is paramount.

    Citizenship means looking at the field of candidates and supporting the one who we think will result in the best outcome for the American people, not the one who is closest to us on the ideological scale.

    I won’t cede the moral high ground to those who refuse to accept anything other than purity on issues, for tilting at windmills is profoundly immoral; its a disastrous form of self-righteousness, of placing our vanity above the common good.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Liberty60 says:

      “The purpose of engaging in the political process is not to register our viewpoints.”

      Specify political process here. Are you talking about governance? Cause all I can do is register my opinion by showing up to the polls, influencing my friends and neighbors, and volunteering in my district.

      “I won’t cede the moral high ground to those who refuse to accept anything other than purity on issues, for tilting at windmills is profoundly immoral; its a disastrous form of self-righteousness, of placing our vanity above the common good.”

      You either didn’t read my post or just have no interest in actually responding to its central critique.

      If you have no wish to engage, and would rather just shout down those who disagree with you, well you don’t need to lodge a comment here to do so. You’re perfectly welcome to ignore my arguments with silence.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Ethan Gach says:

        Your post appears to be a support of Friedersdorf’s position, against Obama and in favor of Johnson.

        You oppose Solnit’s call for solidarity, and characterize her (and most of us as well) as shouting down opposing voices and thereby claim the moral high ground for yourself as victimized voices of principle.

        I don’t grant you that. Conor’s position was an act of supreme vanity and narcissism that would get eyerolls at an Occupy general assembly.

        And a politely worded comment on a blog where you have front page rights is considered “shouting you down”? Please.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Liberty60 says:

          “I don’t grant you that. Conor’s position was an act of supreme vanity and narcissism that would get eyerolls at an Occupy general assembly.”

          Still not making an argument, just an assertion. Mere contradiction followed by an ad hominem. Do you disagree with that characterization?

          Why exactly is Conor wrong? On what grounds is decision act incorrect, or morally worse than one of his alternatives?Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Ethan Gach says:

            Conor is wrong because:

            1. There are plenty of mechanisms within the Democratic Party to affect the change he wants; except the majority of Democrats and Americans support the President’s actions, so Conor’s point of view was heard, considered, and declined. He wasn’t shouted down, he is not a martyr, he is just in the minority. He had his chance, and failed.

            2. We are in a very tight election, where only a few percentage points separate two radically different visions for America. Conor comes out onto the national stage with less than a month to go before the election, and identifies himself as a liberal, and proceeds to explain why liberals should stop supporting Obama in favor of a minor figure.

            In the Internet world this is known as “concern trolling”; in the political world, it is also known as a “stalking horse” where someone similar to the leading candidate is fielded, simply to draw off votes.

            If Conor were stupid, he might get the benefit of the doubt; but he is obviously bright enough to put words to page, and knows that even the defection of a few Obama votes can create a Romney presidency, and with it, the vaporizing of Medicare, Social Security, reproductive rights, and – by golly!- a drastic escalation of the drone wars.

            This is why liberals like Solnit and Levenson and me are outraged; While prancing around and preening like a moral peacock, Conor is engaging in a bit of political gamesmanship that Karl Rove would admire.

            3. Conor puts his moral concerns about the drone strikes above the welfare of the nation as a whole; He acknowledges the repercussions of his actions in bringing about a Romney presidency, but seems not to care. This displays an astonishing narcissism, a callous disregard for his fellow citizens. Never mind that millions of Americans might lose their Medicare, and die of sickness- Conor will be able to hold his head high! And feel good about himself! And of course, he will suffer no ill effects of a Romney presidency, so dont worry about him.

            This is why Conor is wrong. This is why his decision is incorrect, and morally worse than one of his alternatives.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Liberty60 says:

              except the majority of Democrats and Americans support the President’s actions

              Even when I supported the war in Iraq, I never thought that “the majority support it” was much of an argument in its favor. I certainly wouldn’t use such an argument to buttress a *MORAL* argument.

              While prancing around and preening like a moral peacock, Conor is engaging in a bit of political gamesmanship that Karl Rove would admire.

              This is one of those wacky things that happens when you’re a 3rd Party Voter: people from both sides of the aisle tell you that your vote for Third Guy is, effectively, a vote for THE EVIL OPPOSITION PARTY. If you truly cared about (the stuff you agree with me about), you’d vote for *MY GUY*. Not *THE OTHER GUY*. Being told that your vote is really a vote for Romney is funny when you have other people in your life who tell you it’s really a vote for Obama. You’ll have to trust me on that.

              He acknowledges the repercussions of his actions in bringing about a Romney presidency, but seems not to care.

              Dude. You have officially turned into Koz.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    What on earth makes you think that Rebecca Solnit speaks for all liberals? Do they spout her wisdom as talking points around the water cooler and on blogs for weeks afte she publishes something? Are all liberals running to embrace her as the leader of our ideology?

    False equivalencies.Report

  7. Avatar bookdragon says:

    The difficulty with the whole line of argument is that we aren’t voting for gods, we’re voting for human beings. All THREE of them have positions I disagree with, sometimes strongly. Given that, I pick the one I think will, over all, do the best job.

    Or, as TBOGG once put it: Grow the F–k Up

    The other difficulty with it is that I almost sympathized anyway, right up until that last paragraph. Particularly this line:

    “Why aren’t more people talking about the “lethal presidency” instead of wasting precious energy and time bashing Romney over election time trivialities? ”

    Trivialities? Romney’s response during riots in Egypt and Libya was not a triviality. The fact that his foreign policy advisers are the same neocons who got us into Iraq II is not a triviality. AND having insurance coverage for my cancer-survivor husband is NOT a triviality. Taking that away, from us and from tens of thousands of other Amercans, is what I’d consider a ‘lethal presidency’.Report

  8. Good post! Really enjoyed it.

    Per my usual policy, I’m not going to get into comment wars…but I want to note that this debate looks considerably different through the lens of original sin (or in the absence of that lens, obviously). Cf. Reinhold Niebuhr on the moral ambiguity of power.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Remember George Carlin? He was funny.

    He did this bit where he argued about people who drive slower than you are one of those seven words or something and people who drive faster than you are a maniac.

    People who vote more principled than me are childish idealists and people who vote more cynically than me are one of those seven words or something and probably sociopaths.Report

  10. Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

    I am unclear how we have 27 comments here without Ralph Nader’s name being mentioned.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

      Presidential “candidates” Gary Johnson and Roseanne were assessed on another thread. Ethan’s post here is very interesting and sharp in its limning of the dynamics of Erection 2012. I don’t know if it means “we’re” voting for Barack or not, but I honestly liked it for its clarity.

      Fact is, the American consensus likes droning the bejusus out of terrorists, their associates, and their enablers.

      AUMF, Sept 14, 2001, approved by the US Congress after, you know.

      I’m being a just little glib here, but not really. All President Obama or President Romney needs to do formally declare that he’s drone-bombing terrorist shitheads per

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Terrorists

      Section 1 – Short Title
      This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.
      [edit]Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
      (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
      (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
      (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
      (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

      Me, I’m much less a legalist than a consent-of-the-governed-ist, and I confess this has my consent, as it has the consensus of the American people’s.

      I trust both President Obama and a President Romney for their human decency, to kill when necessary to save human life but not murder.

      Our president, Barack Obama, is no murderer. The difference between killing human beings and murdering them has been clear to mankind’s moral reasoning for thousands of years.

      This is not remotely a partisan issue in my eyes, nor even a moral one unless one would offer his or her own children in place of somebody else’s. [Now there’s a moral conundrum.]Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Tom, I am afraid that when it comes to Al-Awlaki, I do consider it murder. Stipulated that he was a bad guy in bed with AQ. He was still an American citizen, and to execute him sans due process, is in fact murder.

        He wasn’t collateral damage; he wasn’t killed while evading capture; he wasn’t killed on a battlefield, or attempting to attack a target; he was just killed, on the President’s say-so and secret evidence.

        What else shall we call it?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Glyph says:

          Self-defense.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Pls don’t be putting me down in column A or B, O me brothers. I have no moral certainty on this. I see both arguments as valid.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            All of the arguments I had about Israel always come bubbling up when I think about the drone attacks.

            I mean, I totally supported Israel targeting Known Terrorists and blowing up their cars even when the Known Terrorists were surrounding themselves with “innocents”. “Hey,” I said. “He’s the one putting them in danger. Their blood is on *HIS* head.”

            Which makes me wonder why drone attacks make me feel queasy.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

              You’re a luddite at heart?Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

              Because the Israelis can at least claim that the terrorist in question was going to attack them at some relatively near future time.

              It’s harder to claim that the immediate justifies the indiscriminate when you’re talking about the USAF blowing up people on one side of a border in Asia who were maybe going to kill people on the other side of the border.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            He wasn’t killed attempting to attack a target – or do you maintain he was found in the Lincoln Bedroom with a knife (or a candlestick?)Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

              That’s to Jesse, obvs.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Glyph says:

              He was killed as an operational leader within Al Qaeda, in a part of a country outside of US and allied jurisdiction, doing so deliberately to avoid capture and even legal representation, and had been planning to facilitate additional attacks upon the US and US residents.

              His due process rights weren’t violated, as he VOLUNTARILY removed himself from a substantial number of restrictions and wound up on a drone target list. At any time between his being identified as a target and his death, Al-Awlaki could have availed himself to his legal remedies, simply by appearing at a US consulate, but he chose not to.

              At some point, one needs to stop making excuses for inexcusably bad actors.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                one needs to stop making excuses for inexcusably bad actors.

                Nob, I agree, but not in the way you’d like. This extrajudicial killing of a US citizen *was* an inexcusably bad act. At some point this needs to be acknowledged & rectified, no matter how much you otherwise agree with the Administration’s anti-terror actions.

                The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to citizens: “Nor shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

                With all respect, what you are doing here is so much legal tapdancing to try to get around the fact that there was no due process of law here. I know you do this stuff for a living, so apologies, b/c I know you’ve heard this all before and from people smarter than I, but let me break it down:

                1. an operational leader within Al Qaeda Says the government. Secret Evidence Is Secret.

                2. doing so deliberately to avoid capture Well, duh. Criminal.

                3. and even legal representation Really, he was doing this to deliberately avoid legal representation and alienate his rights? Not just to, you know, hide?

                4. had been planning to facilitate additional attacks See #1. Also, if we’d known ahead of time about McVeigh, and he was hiding on the Moon – he still needs due process. Trial in absentia. Judicial review. Something. Where was Al-Awlaki’s legal defense, however perfunctory?

                5.) could have availed himself to his legal remedies…at a US consulate So let me get this straight. My government puts me on a Kill List (not capture list, not Most Wanted list); and I am expected to show my face on US property to resolve the matter? Nice little Catch-22 you’ve set up for me there. Not to mention, Secret Kill List and Evidence are Secret. How would I know to do this anyway, especially if I were, say, falsely accused (of course, this *never* happens, right)? And I don’t have to *ask* (take action), for my rights as a US citizen to apply. They are my rights regardless.

                Look, I know you agree with the Administration on many anti-terrorist matters.

                But this is wrong, not just for the precedent it sets and the implications for Executive power and the rights of US citizens; it is wrong on the facts of this one case.

                I am not saying I want Obama dragged into a courtroom and tried for murder – I get that these things are complicated and am willing to believe that their intentions were good; I am willing to give them an ‘oops!’ but only IF they acknowledge that this is not acceptable, and steps are taken to prevent its recurrence.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Glyph says:

                Whether or not the assassination of Al-Awlaki was murder or some other characterization, libs need to come to grips with the fact that it’s really bad nonetheless, and not just as a matter of foreign policy.

                Besides the unfortunate fate of Mr Al-Awlaki, somewhere there is a Executive Order whose contents are public or whose existence is public. This EO says that the President can order the armed forces (and maybe even other arms of the government, I don’t know) to kill this list of American citizens on sight. That executive order, and the governance it represents, is a horrible precedent for American governance.

                In general, libs want to pretend that they’re not enabling the President’s policies in Libya, Afghanistan, or judicial assassination, but of course they are. Notice carefully that whenever you see this line of argument, the line “Well, Romney would be worse” is always asserted, never actually argued.

                And libs really want to ignore the reality that there’s more than ideological factors involved as well. From everything we’ve seen from the careers of President Obama and Governor Romney, it’s pretty easy to figure out that Mitt Romney is good at stuff whereas Barack Obama can’t be bothered to figure it out. And as a tendency, competent people do smart things whereas obtuse people do dumb things.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Koz says:

                From everything we’ve seen from the careers of President Obama and Governor Romney, it’s pretty easy to figure out that Mitt Romney is good at stuff whereas Barack Obama can’t be bothered to figure it out.

                Totally disagree. Obama is a much better president than that, and Romney’s step-on-his-dick international tour this summer doesn’t give me much hope that he’d be able to handle foreign affairs with any degree of competence. Can you imagine what the world would look like now if McCain had won? And, I’m sorry, from what I’ve seen of him so far, making money by shuffling high-end paper around is pretty much the only thing that Romney does well, and in fact it’s pretty clear that he would be worse. He can’t even relate to many of his fellow Americans; how on earth could he deal with people from other cultures and with different histories?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

                This is ridiculous. If McCain were President, we wouldn’t have PPACA, the stimulus package would have been smaller, we’d be on a path to fiscal stability, and we’d be in a plain old recovery instead of whatever this is.

                Notice this: it doesn’t matter that much which of President Obama’s policies you talk about. It could be Afghanistan, the debt limit, Libya, PPACA, or whatever. None of them make any sense. It’s all a matter of political maneuvering and infighting. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, an Obama policy is a seven-course meal after it’s been digested.

                Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Mitt Romney is the personification of excellence in our political culture today. Because he has the determination, the intelligence, the follow-through to actually accomplish important things, we have the opportunity to make a break with the stagnation of the current Administration.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                Mitt Romney is the personification of excellence in our political culture today.

                Romney is a self-important blowhard who represents the total decline in quality of Republican Party options. I cannot believe you can look at his campaign and not see what is glaringly apparent to anyone with good vision. On any given day, most of the Republican Party is ready to go for his throat and his inability to articulate a coherent, let alone inspiring, policy beyond “trust me, this’ll work!” is not exactly reassuring. His statement in the famed 47% video that the market will automatically improve if he’s elected without him actually doing anything suggests a degree of hubris that is staggering.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                If McCain were President, we wouldn’t have PPACA, the stimulus package would have been smaller, we’d be on a path to fiscal stability, and we’d be in a plain old recovery instead of whatever this is.

                Whatever you’re huffing is illegal in all 50 states and most Canadian provinces. America would be in almost exactly the same situation as it is now, or even worse because McCain probably wouldn’t have had the smarts to arrange the shoring-up of the auto industry. Like his presence in Washington when he “suspended” his campaign to deal with the financial crisis was so necessary to coming up with a solution. He was lucky to get included in the group photo.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to DRS says:

                I don’t care if Obama, McCain, Romney or anyone else had done this, it’s still wrong, and needs to be repudiated, regardless of who wins.

                I seriously doubt that Romney would rescind this, because he’s never made a peep about it in his campaign, and the natural Executive tendency is to retain your predecessor’s powers, and gain a few of your own.

                It’s kind of like ‘Highlander’ in that respect.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

                “Romney is a self-important blowhard who represents the total decline in quality of Republican Party options.”

                Oh bullshit. There’s no getting around the reality that unlike President Obama, Romney has actually accomplished things in his life before he ran for President.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                There’s no getting around the reality that unlike President Obama, Romney has actually accomplished things in his life before he ran for President.

                Utter nonsense. You are in a bad mood today, aren’t you? Kids run across your lawn again?

                Obama has accomplishments in a different field than Romney does. Like a lot of Americans, you’re equating personal wealth with vast achievement. ‘Tain’t necessarily so. And you’re ignoring a considerably less than stellar campaign that has Romney losing an election that the vast majority of Republicans thought was in the bag regardless of who the nominee was. Not exactly epitome of political excellence, is he?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

                “Obama has accomplishments in a different field than Romney does.”

                No, no, no, no, no. That’s just self-deluded lib rationalization. Before he was elected President, he had _no_ accomplishments in any field.

                He was an indifferent student and Oxy and Columbia. He did better at Harvard, where he was editor of the law review but even that he got as a compromise in lieu of the two main candidates. He has no significant accomplishments as a lawyer. _He_ _was_ _a_ _failure_ _as_ _a_ _commiunity_ _organizer_, which for me is a very important datum (as you might gather from the underlines). He was irrelevant as a State Senator, he accomplished nothing as a US Senator. Add it all together, it’s pretty easy to see why he’s failed as President.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to DRS says:

                but even that he got as a compromise in lieu of the two main candidates

                What does this mean?Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                This narrowing-thread thing is really irritating.

                Koz: I am not a liberal, I’m a conservative. I’ve said this about a dozen times now on this site. “Lib” is just a word you throw out as some kind of insult as you stamp your feet in annoyance.

                No, no, no, no, no. That’s just self-deluded lib rationalization. Before he was elected President, he had _no_ accomplishments in any field.

                He wrote and published two books, and became quite wealthy (not Romney-league, of course) on the proceeds. He became the editor of the Harvard Law Review, regardless of whether or not you think he deserved to. He got elected to the state legislature and to the Senate, again regardless of whether or not you think he deserved to. Obviously enough voters disagreed with you that he managed to win. These are considered achievements in most peoples’ minds. Since you offer no sites for your claims that he wasn’t a good student, I’m probably on safe ground in assuming it’s wishful thinking. Ditto the community organizer success. Obviously you wish McCain had won but isn’t this taking sore-loserdom to stratospheric levels?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

                “http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/06/us/first-black-elected-to-head-harvard-s-law-review.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm”Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to DRS says:

                Koz, I don’t know what that article says that explains “but even that he got as a compromise in lieu of the two main candidates.” Why don’t you tell me what you mean by that.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

                I don’t that much time to look at Google but that’s what I found offhand. The NYT article doesn’t say that law student Obama was a compromise candidate. That’s a recollection of mine from other sources. What the NYT article does suggest is that the law review editorship under the process that Obama won it was not geared toward selecting the best law scholar among the students, such as that is.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DRS says:

                koz, re:fiscal stability
                you would. i wouldn’t.
                Fiscal stability for my city doesn’t go through PNC’s bankrutpcy.

                In fact, if Mccain were president, i wouldn’t be in this country anymore.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 in reply to DRS says:

                “but even that he got as a compromise in lieu of the two main candidates

                What does this mean?”

                It means, “Obama = Affirmative action.”Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 in reply to DRS says:

                “By the end of Obama’s second year, his academic record and reputation had qualified him to run for one of the most prestigious roles at the law school — president of the Harvard Law Review.

                The review editors were a partisan, contentious group. Classmate Brad Berenson remembers the guy from Hawaii who floated above the fray. “One of the enduring images I have of him is of a guy in jeans and a leather jacket, Jimmy Dean style, standing out in front of Gannett House smoking a cigarette.”

                Berenson was one of the conservatives, and in a long, contentious election, his group ultimately supported Obama’s candidacy.

                They did that in part because they had a sense that he was more open-minded and would listen to the conservatives, and would value and accept their contributions in a way that some of the other candidates would not,” says Berenson, who worked in the George W. Bush White House and is now a member of Romney’s justice advisory committee.

                The conservatives’ intuition turned out to be correct, says Berenson. “He ended up upsetting many more of his colleagues on the far left than those of us who were on the right, in part because the bottom line for him as president of the law review always remained putting out a first-class publication.”

                http://www.npr.org/2012/05/22/153214284/obamas-harvard-days-began-with-exclamation-point

                He compromised between the left and the right. He was a compromise candidate.

                I think the rest of DRS’s garbage is not worth discussing.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                Shazbotz, my garbage is much more worthy of discussion than a lot of other people’s garbage.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to Koz says:

                This. A thousand times this.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                That’s his father, post-mortem, no?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Wait, I was thinking of something else. Reading now.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Glyph says:

                Al-Awlaki was killed in September of 2011.

                Unless the DC Circuit Court has magical time traveling powers to be writing an opinion in 2010 that wasn’t actually written until 2011, the opinion was substantially pre-mortem.

                Also note that the opinion states:

                Defendants state that if Anwar al-Aulaqi were to surrender or otherwise present himself to the proper authorities in a peaceful and appropriate manner, legal principles with which the United States has traditionally and uniformly complied would prohibit using lethal force or other violence against him in such circumstances. Anwar al-Aulaqi would have the choice at that
                point, as he does now, to seek legal assistance and access to U.S. courts. This forecloses any grounds for his father to seek standing as a “next friend” in this case. That Anwar al-Aulaqi may choose not to come forward and seek judicial relief does not mean he lacks access to the courts or that his father should be able to presume his son wishes to invoke the federal courts and therefore to file suit on his son’s behalf.

                Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Yes, again, reading now, I originally thought this was referring to a separate action.

                As an aside, if you would complete your comments the first time, or just reply again with additional info, rather than doing your own magical time-traveling to edit the earlier comment, it would prevent your interlocutors from making these kinds of mistakes (that is, the link was not there when I first saw the comment) 😉

                Will read and reply with thoughts. Thanks. I do appreciate your patience.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Glyph says:

                Oh, sorry about that. That’s my bad.

                I tend to prefer parsimony in my comments, but then I realize I don’t add enough information to give my comment context, so I go back and edit it. I’ll refrain from that in the future.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                My fault too, I just saw the case name and it looked similar to a post-mortem one that I think was talked about the last time we had these discussions? Anyway, I should have googled it and figured it out.

                OK, upon my non-lawyerly skimming, my thoughts:

                1.) This does soften my objections a little bit. There are parts I don’t love, but that to my NAL eyes appear to to be backed up with fairly sound reasoning or precedent (I refer here mostly to the dismissal of the father’s standing – while it seems strange/sad that a father would not have standing to say, ‘please don’t kill my son’, it appears to be fairly well-supported).

                2.) I do find it funny that the suit’s objections to the eventual kill are basically mine – that is, please don’t kill “outside an armed conflict “unless he is found to present a concrete, specific, and imminent threat to life or physical safety, and there are no means other than lethal force that could reasonably be employed to neutralize the threat”. So even the suit makes no attempt to deny the allegations, nor say that there are no circumstances under which killing is reasonable – the caveats make plain that there are plenty of reasonable circumstances under which to kill the guy.

                3.) Where I feel it starts to go a bit off the rails is when the gov’t alleges that the plaintiff has no basis to speculate that the gov’t would do such an unprecedented thing – that if only he will surrender, trust us, he’ll get what’s coming to him (and I do use this ambiguous phrasing intentionally). Given that we now know that he was in fact killed, in hindsight this seems somewhat disingenuous; basically saying, “how could you even accuse us of wanting to do this [hypothetical thing, that later becomes much much less hypothetical]?”.

                4.) The govt’s assertion that A.) the resultant prior restraint (which, as I note re: the caveats in #2’s, pretty well conforms to my limited understanding of US precedents here) of the plaintiff’s requested injunction could hamstring the Executive at a critical time, is somewhat to my mind undermined by that the B.) allegation that ‘of course the Executive would follow all the laws and precedents’. That is, if B.) is true, how can A.) hamstring? It seems to me that the result of these two things is that A.) would be redundant & superfluous; but would require no additional effort on the part of the Executive (they are supposedly doing this already, Trust Them).

                5.) Last but not at all least, the continued assertion on the part of the gov’t that the actual evidence itself must remain State and Intelligence secrets. Secret Evidence is to my mind the most obviously problematic portion.

                Was this *actual* evidence that prompted the accusations (you know, the root stuff we need to look at to decide if the guy is guilty) ever reviewed by the Judicial branch? If not, then despite the fact that this motion and its dismissal (which were prompted by the revelations of the existence of the ‘Kill List’ and Al-Awlaki’s presence on it) do not contest the allegations themselves, it seems very strange that we can say this killing was ‘legal’ under US law.

                The allegations *themselves* need to be tested/adjudicated (unless Al-Awlaki entered a plea of ‘no contest’ or something – which if we can say he did by proxy, then every criminal in the world who is currently hiding out is in the same boat).

                This is the step that to me seems critical and missed, and so results in the part where it looks to me like the gov’t said, He’s a bad guy, trust us’, and then, ‘Come out with your hands up’, and, getting no response, started firing into the building.

                OK, that is my first impressions. Like I said, you’ve softened me a tiny bit.

                But I can’t shake the feeling that this is one of those cases where, even if the component pieces of the case are themselves in (debatably) legal order, the end result is somehow just wrong, if only for the terrible precedent it sets.Report

  11. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    I am not in the business of fetishizing those in power.

    Why do you hate America?Report

  12. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Although I don’t for a second concede that the mainstream-liberal blogosphere’s reaction to Conor’s piece is sufficient evidence to support his absurd assertion that the vast majority of everyone on the left everywhere can’t even comprehend a choice not to vote for Obama given what they are apparently assumed to simply know about Conor’s particular value set, nevertheless, I do wish that they had taken his statement of whom he plans to vote for a bit more in stride. I mean, it’s one dude, telling the world who he’s voting for. I honestly don’t understand what the big deal about it is.Report

  13. My problem with some of this argument is that I can’t agree upon some of the facts Greenwald or Conor or you bring to the debate. Because for the most part, a good number of them aren’t “facts” per se, but declarations of principles that aren’t able to be debated.

    The framing is consistently done in a way to make anyone who disagrees with them to be some sort of malformed sociopath or worse, and the image they present (particularly Greenwald and Conor) is that the President is somehow gleefully ordering people to be blasted to pieces because, well, that’s what he wants to do and the alternatively is always some Manichean struggle where there’s a white knight political candidate who will end all wars.

    The reality is that there can and will be disagreement on the legal, moral and geopolitical reasons for supporting a particular set of foreign policy preferences. There’s no difference when it comes to targeted killing or drone strikes no matter how much you want to make either sound egregious or unacceptable.

    How different is stripping context out of the Al-Awlaki killing, or the entire Af-Pak theater and using it to shout “SHAME ON YOU!” from the “sit down and shut up” tactic you attribute to Bouie or Levenson? Because from where I’m standing (and arguably I am one of the liberal defenders of the Administration’s drone and targeting policy) the difference is non-existent.Report

  14. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    “The reality is that there can and will be disagreement on the legal, moral and geopolitical reasons for supporting a particular set of foreign policy preferences. There’s no difference when it comes to targeted killing or drone strikes no matter how much you want to make either sound egregious or unacceptable.”

    Agreed. Most people are content to dismiss the issue outright by saying it’s terrible, but not very important.

    All I’m urging is that people for whom it is not very problematic either explain why they support the policy, or why they think the effects of it are made up for by other policies. I have yet to see any major apologist do the latter.

    I’m not including you in that group Nob, you’ve obviously give a much fuller account. Even if I disagree with it, you aren’t dodging the issue in the way that many others are.Report

    • Avatar DRS in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      Geez, Ethan, attitude much? Chillax, please.

      As a non-American, I would like to make a suggestion. There is such a thing as “national interest”. 99.9% of all countries act on the basis of what they perceive to be, rightly or wrongly, their national interest. It’s a Machiavellian, real-politik concept that gives many people the ethical willies but there’s no doubt that it’s the prime mover in international affairs. I would also add that by acting in their national interest, a country is acknowledging that it does not have control over a lot of variables such as the actions of other countries or individuals.

      I would suggest that you view Obama’s actions from the POV of whether or not it advances America’s national interest and leave behind the rhetoric about “evil”. No American president has control over much of the real world, and being a superpower actually means very little on a day-to-day basis. I’ve seen so many blogs waste pixels on whether or not Obama could have supported the Green protesters in Iran so that they “won” what they wanted, and almost no consideration is given to the fact that there was really nothing he could do. American presidents do not come into office to find a magic wand in the top drawer of the Oval Office desk.

      For what it’s worth, I think Obama has groked that reality a lot better and faster than certain others *cough, cough* Bush II *cough, cough*.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to DRS says:

        “I would suggest that you view Obama’s actions from the POV of whether or not it advances America’s national interest and leave behind the rhetoric about “evil”. No American president has control over much of the real world, and being a superpower actually means very little on a day-to-day basis. I’ve seen so many blogs waste pixels on whether or not Obama could have supported the Green protesters in Iran so that they “won” what they wanted, and almost no consideration is given to the fact that there was really nothing he could do. American presidents do not come into office to find a magic wand in the top drawer of the Oval Office desk.”

        Kill List. He signs it. People die. No over sight.

        He has control over that.Report

        • Avatar DRS in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          Yeah, it’s a pity that magic wand doesn’t exist. Then he could just point it in the direction of the Middle East and say “Make everything all better so the American people will feel all warm and fuzzy and well-loved, with snuggly teddies and clean diapers. Make sure that nothing happens that would actually require Americans to understand that decisions made decades ago by other leaders in both the US, Europe and the Middle East are going to have a long life-span and that we have to deal with unintended consequences.” It sure would come in handy some days to have that wand.

          Look, the kill list is a symptom of a greater problem: Americans want instant, cost-free success that doesn’t involve American casualties and that doesn’t require American troops to run mortal risks. Americans want international hegemony, an absense of bad guys and possibly unicorns without paying for them. Americans are not open to hearing what those things actually require: paying taxes so war doesn’t go on the Amex card (which is pretty much maxed out), accepting that a certain percentage of soldiers who climb onto a plane will return home in a box, that picking national alliances might require more thought than simply whether or not a country says all the right anti-terrorist things or is Israel.

          Given all those circumstances, the kill list is by no means an option Obama can disregard. It’s another American fantasy, pain-free success.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          The one positive thing you can say about it is if Obama has to *personally* sign off on every one, that becomes systemically self-limiting.

          The real scary thing is if that authority is ever delegated down.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to DRS says:

        “I would suggest that you view Obama’s actions from the POV of whether or not it advances America’s national interest and leave behind the rhetoric about “evil”.”

        Great point. Exactly how do our policies in Libya or Afghanistan advance the national interest? Have you heard any explanation from the President for that? If you did hear one, would you believe it?

        Libs want to pretend that they’re not enabling the President’s policies in Libya, Afghanistan, or judicial assassination, but they are.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Koz says:

          Exactly how do our policies in Libya or Afghanistan advance the national interest?

          Theoretically, or objectively?

          Because both sides will point to theoretical reasons to intervene all sorts of places, and then hem and haw about objectively measuring the results of their proposed interventions.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Objectively is better, but either one in a pinch. The point being, that neither the Administration, nor the lib enablers outside the Administration, has clearly offered an explanation for what national interest the President is trying to advance, and how the President’s policies in Libya and Afghanistan have in fact advanced those interests (or failed to, as the case may be).

            That’s to say, that even if we allow that the national interest in some circumstances outweighs personal moral concerns (a proposition that I accept even if others don’t) still doesn’t justify the President because there’s no indication that the President’s policies are advancing the national interest in any event. That’s why I find the President’s policies in Libya to be such a disgrace and the actions of the lib enablers are as disreputable as they are.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Koz says:

              um. um. um. Copper Barons! Since when has any president, ever (Jimmy excepted!), done foreign policy for NATIONAL interests?? ROFL. The idea is patently stupid, and would get you burnt in the stock markets in minutes.

              Please, try harder. The US government intervenes for powerful US citizens, so that the powerful can stay powerful and wealthy.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      “All I’m urging is that people for whom it is not very problematic either explain why they support the policy, or why they think the effects of it are made up for by other policies.”

      Or for that matter why it exists in the first place, let’s not forget that one.

      An army company or a Navy destroyer or whoever, who is actually in combat in some legitimate way, who happens to come across Americans participating in combat for the other side of the conflict can engage them just as they would the non-American enemy combatants. To the extent that the Administration’s directive is a legitimate policy it’s not necessary.Report

    • The “terrible but not important” dodge does piss me off, too.

      The “terrible and there’s no excuse for it” thing also does annoy me substantially.

      The “terrible and these people would be perfectly fine if we just stopped bombing things!!!!” crowd annoys me as much as the “terrible but not important” crowd.

      Both trivilise suffering as though it’s merely instrumental in the context of US politics or political support. I feel it’s perfectly legitimate to ask if the alternative would really be better, both for the US and for the people on the ground. Given the degree to which militant and radical violence is endemic in Pakistan, is in fact taking away tools from the Pakistani government that they’re using (albeit covertly and with deniability) to kill militants aimed at terrorizing their own people actually the best solution? I’d like to see that engaged more and treated as more than just sophistry.

      The fighting in FATA and NWFP are serious. The Pakistani military’s offensives have had orders of magnitude more costs than the drone strikes. Is that the preferable alternative?Report

  15. Avatar Sandra350 says:

    The most ludicrous thing about Solnit’s laughable piece is her equation of voting/not voting for Obama with the difficult choices made by grassroots social justice movements like the civil rights movement, Gandhi’s nonviolence movement, etc. The fact that so many liberals have fallen for her idiotic analogies speaks to their unbelievable stupidity in their understanding of how change happens.

    There is far too much focus on Obama/Romney in this discussion — the issue is how liberals or progressives behave when a Democrat or Republican is in office.

    THAT’S THE ISSUE.

    When Bush tried to attack social security, progressives immediately & intensively organized and mobilized to stop him. And they succeeded.

    With Obama, he can invade & intervene anywhere he likes, commit mass murder, make his grand bargain to begin the destruction of social security & medicare (which he *WILL* do in his 2nd term), institutionalize Bush’s war on terror policies, violate basic civil liberties principles, go back on all his promises — hell, he can nuke a country if he likes – and nice progressives will do NOTHING.

    Why?

    All because he’s not an evil Republican.

    Hell-if Obama did every single thing Bush did or failed to do–if he was absolutely identical to GW Bush–progressives would support him and vote for him and make the same pathetic lame arguments in favor of voting for him. Abortion? Just exactly what has Obama and the Democrats done these last 25 yrs as the right as chipped away successfully at the right to access to legal abortion? Why should that change in Obama’s 2nd term?

    Progressives’ overriding principle is only one thing: a Republican can’t be allowed to violate the constitution, break the law, spy on US citizens, intervene in foreign countries, make needless war, protect and defend Wall Street, end the social safety net, etc.

    Only a Democrat can do all of that.

    Oh yeah–gays and lesbians can now be free to “come out of the closet” while in the military so they can continue the job of bombing wedding parties and murdering civilians.

    Big whoop.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sandra350 says:

      I think that minimizing how “gays and lesbians can now be free to “come out of the closet” while in the military so they can continue the job of bombing wedding parties and murdering civilians” is minimizing something that is actually very much a step in the right direction, but I tend to agree with you here.

      I’m tempted to write an essay talking about exactly how America is dealing with the Terrorist Threat Overseas, then switching the names of America/Israel and Terrorists/Palestinian Terrorists and seeing what happens. Though it won’t work now that I’ve telegraphed it…Report

  16. Avatar Shazbot2 says:

    I don’t get this whole issue about Obama and voting and the drones at all. Somebody tell me what I’m doing wrong.

    1. I disagree with Obama’s drone policy. (I’d use them even sometimes risking innocent deaths, but more rarely than Obama.) I think the overuse of drones is immoral in that it results in unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians.

    2. I do, however, agree with Obama on abortion (IMO, a few more Republican court appointees and legislative bodies may result in a terrible moral cost), ending the war in Afghanistan, avoiding war with Iran and Syria (Romney has talked too tough for me, President McCain would be in Syria now, IMO), providing healthcare to all Americans (saving many lives), providing aid to the poor and educational assistance to improve the lives of millions, respecting the rights of gay people to enter marriages, a more bi-lateral approach to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the immoral horrors of the occupation, etc. etc., etc.

    On balance, I agree with most but not all of Obama’s policy preferences.

    3. Thus, I will vote for Obama and strongly recommend and persuade my friends to do so, too.

    4. I will also argue vigorously that Obama should change his policies to match mine even more perfectly.

    5. I do not see any contradiction between 3. and 4.

    6. If there were a candidate who had policy preferences that were closer to mine than Obama (there isn’t), who had much less of a chance of winning in 2012 (though maybe a non-zero chance of winning in the future), perhaps something like the NDP in Canada, I would have to make a hard decision about whether to vote for that candidate or Obama. (I think they call this deliberating about who you will vote for. Novel idea in the U.S., apparently.)

    7. I suspect Friedersdorf is crying crocodile tears for the innocent deaths in drone attacks, i.e. that he is using legitimate worries over the immorality of overuse of drones to score political points. Will he claim that he won’t support any U.S. leader who will standby Israel’s heavy handed, violent repression in the West Bank? We give Israel military aid and that aid partially goes to funding a horrible, decades long brutal occupation in which many people have died. Will Friedersdorf pledge to only support pro-Palestinian presidential candidates who promise to cut off aid to Israel until Israel retreats to the 67 borders?

    I’m not trying to tu quoque Friedersdorf here. I am arguing that the inconsistency of his concern for innocent civilian deaths is evidence that he is more concerned about manufacturing a reason not to vote for Romney than anything else.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot2 in reply to Shazbot2 says:

      Not to vote for “Obama.”

      Really, I’m interested about why some people seem to see a contradiction between 3. and 4.

      It’s as if people discussing Obama have never lived in a democracy before. Many policies have massive moral implications: civil rights, poverty, war, etc. So, you as a citizen have a duty to try to get your government to act as morally as possible. We do that by A.) voting in such a way as to get the candidate who we determine to be likely to enact the most morally acceptable set of policies (no candidate is likely to appear to have morally perfect policies to any individual voter as many voters have wildly different policy preferences). And B.) we work hard to nominate politicians and create parties that will result in people being more able to choose candidates that create policies that fit their preferences.

      Here again, A.) and B.) aren’t in conflict. If you agree with Obama on most issues (especially morally important issues like abortion, poverty, healthcare, etc.) then vote for him. If you disagree with him and the Democratic party on other issues, get involved in the party (donating time or money and your persuasive skills) or look to join a new party.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Shazbot2 says:

      “I do, however, agree with Obama on …… ending the war in Afghanistan….”

      Oh, the other President Obama, Charles Lucius Obama, who ended the war in Afghanistan. He was a swell guy.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot2 in reply to Koz says:

        “Ending” and “ended” are different words.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Shazbot2 says:

          Typical lib sloppiness combined with disingenuousness. Barack Obama isn’t ending the war in Afghanistan any more than he’s ended it. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we were still “surging” our troop strength there.

          Whether we’re “stabilizing”, “surging” or “ending” our presence there, we are the victim of policy by politically convenient buzzword. What do you think the chance is President Obama could give a coherent explanation for what we’re trying to accomplish in Afghanistan that jives with what’s actually going on there? 40%, tops? Probably more like 10%.Report

  17. Avatar mac says:

    Now is the time for all Good Men to come to the aid of their party!Report

  18. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    No serious candidate for president is going to pledge to abandon drone warfare. It’s too useful a tool for attacking people who genuinely do mean harm to the US and its allies. I’m very impressed with Gary Johnson for not pandering by making a promise he knows he’d never have to live up to.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to MikeSchilling says:

      too useful a tool

      I know I am among the minority of the libertarians at this site, since to me the ‘drone issue’ is not the actual drones per se; the issue is knowing when/why/how these tools/weapons should be utilized (like any other tool/weapon).

      I also think it was a good answer, is what I’m saying; if it wasn’t campaign season he might have even expanded and added some nuance to it (maybe something along the lines of how all weapons should be used as intelligently and as sparingly as possible) – but that he didn’t go beyond brief and to the point right now (all options on the table), is to be expected.Report

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