Custom Search

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Obama's "Kill List" Great Foreign Policy Move For Re-election; Long Term? Not So Much

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Obama's ‘secret kill list' shows president is final word on terrorist killing missions

When it comes to the "secret kill list"--a regularly updated chart showing the world's most wanted terrorists--President Obama is the "final moral calculation" in the kill or capture debate, according to the third in a series of New York Times articles assessing his record.

And despite his liberal background, Obama has taken an aggressive approach to counterterrorism.

The Times said it interviewed three dozen current and former advisers to Obama for the article, who described his "evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda":

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands.

When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda—even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was "an easy one."

Part of Obama's "evolution" on terror apparently began early in his term, when a drone strike resulted in civilian casualties:

Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. "The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, 'I want to know how this happened,'" a top White House adviser recounted.

In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a "near certainty" that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.

"The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets," the Times said, "and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration's 'false choice between our safety and our ideals.'"

And Obama's success limiting civilian deaths in drone strikes is, in part, due to "a disputed method for counting civilian casualties" embraced by Obama. According to the Times, the White House considers "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants ... unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Obama's personal involvement in counterterrorism operations can be seen in his study of the "baseball card"-like "kill list." For example, in January 2010--four months before he ordered the operation that killed Osama bin Laden--President Obama questioned the ages of some of the al-Qaeda suspects on it.

"How old are these people?" Obama asked during his regular Tuesday briefing with intelligence officials--dubbed the "Terror Tuesday" meeting--in the White House Situation Room. "If they are starting to use children, we are moving into a whole different phase."

The White House has also struggled with the so-called "Whac-A-Mole" approach to counterterrorism--an al-Qaida leader killed in, say, a drone strike is simply replaced with another.

"One guy gets knocked off, and the guy's driver, who's No. 21, becomes 20?" William M. Daley, Obama's chief of staff in 2011, told the Times. "At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?"

Joe Scarborough On Obama 'Kill List': 'I Wonder How This Is Going To Look Ten Years From Now'

Joe Scarborough expressed discomfort on Tuesday with President Obama's newly revealed "kill list" of alleged Al Qaeda suspects.

The New York Times ran a lengthy story about Obama's intimate involvement in personally deciding which people should go on the list of targets for drone strikes. The opening scene of the story showed Obama choosing whether or not to target two teenagers, "including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years."

On Tuesday's "Morning Joe," Scarborough said that the story made him "flinch." He wondered whether it was right for the president to be so personally implicated in such choices. "Something to me is just not right about taking that into the Oval Office," he said.

The other panelists all seemed to be fine with Obama's participation, saying that it showed a willingness to confront the realities of his decisions.

Scarborough still seemed uneasy:

I just wonder, ten years from now, what we're going to be saying about a president lining up pictures of teenagers in the Oval Office and picking.

I'm not talking the morality of doing it or not doing it, I'm just talking about whether it should be kept away from the president, away from the White House.

And you stack that on top of us launching drone attacks in countries where we haven't even declared war? There are going to be some searing critiques a decade from now about our overreach.

"There could be critiques of a president who was disconnected as well and did not choose to look and did not choose think about every angle, including the moral choice," Brzezinski said. "Don't you think?"

"No," Scarborough replied. "I don't. I think there are a lot of people that are going to spin for Barack Obama ... I think you're going to have a lot of liberal hand-wringing."

Sources: AP, ABC News, AOL, Huffington Post, NY Times, The Daily Beast, Yahoo, White House

No comments: