FALLING FOR IT

Posted in Rants on March 11th, 2013 by Ed

The media – even the liberal portion of it, alleged or in reality – just can't get enough Bipartisanship. Since the best solution to any problem inevitably lies halfway between opposing viewpoints, we should show everyone how non-partisan we are at every opportunity. In practice this means that liberals have to say supportive things on occasion about Republicans. We must do so to prove that we are Serious People.

So last week we were told, in Salon's case quite explicitly, that we needed to cheer Rand Paul during his 13 hour filibuster over drone strikes on U.S. soil. The idea passes the smell test; executive power, particularly the power to use force, is opposed by both libertarian conservatives and liberals in general. Unfortunately the whole filibuster spectacle was more a reflection of the paranoid worldview of the Paultard/survivalist right than of the reality of the issue.

The issue in question was whether the president could order an armed drone strike in the U.S. against an American citizen "in an extraordinary circumstance" like a terrorist attack or serious attempt to overthrow the government. In other words, Holder was not arguing that a drone strike could be ordered against citizens in non-combat settings. And in the event of something like a rebellion or a terrorist attack the president already has extensive power to use force against citizens and non-citizens alike in the U.S. What difference does it make if drone strikes are added to the menu?

Now some of you will accuse me of being naive and too trusting that such a power would be used with discretion or that the scope of events for which a drone strike could be used will not be expanded. But the fact is that the government, should it desire to kill you, has much simpler and more efficient ways to it than by armed drone. One of the dirty secrets of Predator and similar systems is that they have a remarkably low success rate. They crash all the damn time and their Hellfire missile system – which is an anti-tank system adapted for drone use strictly because of weight requirements for the small airframes – are woefully inaccurate. They were designed to hit armor at short range from a shoulder-, vehicle-, or helicopter-mounted launcher. They were not designed to hit cars driving at escape velocity and certainly not a human-sized target. Long story short: drones are just about the worst, lowest-probability tool in the military arsenal for killing somebody. We use them in Afghanistan because it's bloodless and politically costless when they fail, crash, or get shot out of the sky.

In short, a lot of commentators appear to have fallen for the old "Serious People are bipartisan" appeal again. Paul's schtick was about bunker-dwellers' fears that the government plans to hunt them down, kill them, and steal their stash of freeze-dried shelter foods / impressive collection of Anime porn. If a president wanted to do that – and again, god only knows why they would – the ability to use a drone would be irrelevant.

So Rand Paul is basically just being the typical Paultard, inveighing against the government's plans to kill us all and round us up into camps and whatever else Alex Jones sees when he closes his eyes at night. No, we should not cheer him on for that.