Monday, February 11, 2013

PopeHat Turns Crazy

--By Robert H.

So this is offensive.  Basically it's a Popehat author pointing out meaningless comparisons between Obama and the crazy LAPD dude running around killing people.  They are both for gun control!  They both like his wife!  The worst kind of association fallacy.  The point (?) is that Obama's targeted killings of US citizens is just as bad as anything crazy cop man is doing.

Drone Strikes

So all those other comparisons (they both think Obama did OK in his first term!) could be ignored as stupid window dressing, but in the comments the author takes things a step further, arguing that it's all a fair comparison   He thinks being for gun control, liking the welfare state, and being a murderer is all sort of part in parcel, implying a fundamental disrespect for law or a desire for unbounded government control of our lives or something.  His co-bloggers also basically support the post in the comments.  So, yeah, offensive.  Which leaves me having to debate whether Pope Hat's authors are so crazy (IE, "liking welfare state = fascist = murderer" crazy) that I have to invoke my "it's not worth reading crazy people" rule and take them off my RSS feed.  Not something I expected from a usually excellent blog.

But that's not why I'm writing this!  I'm writing this post to point out that the basic underlying comparison is stupid too, not just the "they both like gun control democrats are killers" stuff.  And it is a stupid mistake I see a lot of liberals AND conservatives make, namely the idea that drone-strikes are basically murder, impeach obama, freedom FTW.

Here's why that doesn't work: LAPD dude has no colorable legal theory for why he should get to murder the people he murders.  Whatever moral theory he has is strained.  But the president, while his drone strikes may be unlawful,  does at lest have a real theory for why he has the authority kill a minority ("US citizen" works better than "minority," but isn't an NWA lyric):

1. In congressionally authorized military actions the soldiers we are fighting don't get due process.  We kill them.  We assassinate them.  That's that.  The executive branch handles all of this.  This makes sense: we wouldn't be able to defend ourselves if, say, we couldn't launch an attack in WWII save with a judicially authorized warrant.  The way war works (should work) is: congress gives the broad go ahead, President goes kill people.
2. Historically, sensibly, and constitutionally, this also applies to US citizens fighting the US.  Or see here.
3. Use of force against al quaeda and it's affiliates is congressionally authorized.
4. Between the authorization for the use of military force, the fact that this sort of thing (flying around the world blowing up terrorists in a protracted fight with Al Qaeda)  is probably exactly what congress envisioned when it passed the AUMF, Al Quaeda's proven ability to attack the American homeland, the time-sensitive nature of a lot of our decisions to assassinate Al Quaeda operatives, and Al Quaeda engaging us militarily in Afganistan and Iraq, it is fitting and proper to analogize our fight with Al Quaeda to a military, not a law enforcement action.
5. Therefor, prez can assassinate members of Al Quaeda.

Not a fully convincing argument!  People who oppose drone strikes would be quick to point out that a lot of them are deliberative, slow decisions, with plenty of time for judicial oversight.  They'll point out that military killings are traditionally limited to the battlefield, and it isn't satisfying to say "in the modern world, the battlefield is everywhere."  They'll point out that an open-ended AUMF, already 11 years old, is a weak perch to hang your hat on.  They'll point out how easily this system could be abused.  The bolder ones argue that the founders misinterpreted the founders when the founders launched the quasi war, and that foundational intent was, unbeknownst to the founders, for congress to only be able to launch military action with a formal deceleration of war.

And good for them!  Most of those arguments aren't stupid!  But if people who oppose drone strikes are honest, they will admit that the President's position is not lawless vigilantism.  At the margin, the line between law enforcement and war is not a clear one -- both can consist of congress authorizing the use of force against bad actors who seek to harm Americans.  But the line between murdering people with no colorable legal justification and not doing that is crystal clear.  People who cross that line are psychopaths.  Presidents, on the other hand, are mostly just a**holes.

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