about that obama kill list thing
NOTE: this is long and rambly and nonsensical so I totally don’t blame you for not reading it. I wrote it quickly and it’s summer
So everyone has read this by now right? It’s sad and nauseating and “I’m so disappointed” and “I wanted change” and Bush Part II, etc, etc. But what this article picks up on is something that plagues American politics and seems to only be worsening: the conflation between ideology and policy. Both liberals and conservatives in America seem to believe that ideology should guide policy, that the actions of anyone in public office should be painstakingly consistent with whatever political ideals that they subscribe to. This was seen most clearly in the Bush administration, where neoconservatism guided virtually every policy decision, ranging from the economic realm to the national security realm. I’m not well versed enough in American political history to know if this is a pattern or not, but the Bush presidency has conditioned the public into explicitly associating specific political doctrines with the actions of a president. It seems that many have forgotten that politics and humanity at large is not ruled by ideologies, it’s ruled by chaos, and when facing a constantly changing world, pragmatism is a strength, not a weakness. To think that one can govern a country while staying completely committed to a certain political philosophy is a nice idea, but it’s entirely impractical.
ANYWAY. The point of all this was to say that yes, the whole ‘list of people to kill on command’ thing is gross and totally antithetical to much of Obama’s “hopey-changey” campaign rhetoric (although not entirely, Obama repeatedly emphasized his intention to pursue and kill terrorists in foreign countries throughout 2008). Everyone can feel free to call him whatever names they want, express all the disappointment and anger in the world, and compare the American government to as many military dictatorships as they’d like. In many cases these opinions are completely valid! But I would ask those liberals and disenchanted libertarians one question: what exactly would they do if they were in the Oval Office and an advisor told them that a potential terrorist was in direct sight, that their approval was needed to carry out the operation to kill him, that only their word stood in the way of eliminating an individual that publicly pledged to bring harm to United States citizens? Would they always, always, always say no? Would they simply see the entire ‘War on Terror’ as a farce and do away with counter-terrorism entirely?
If Ron Paul were elected tomorrow, would he really get rid of the Federal Reserve, “legalize” mariguana, remove all American troops from foreign bases and revert to the gold standard? I think he would definitely try, but it wouldn’t be nearly as simple or straightforward as many of his supporters may think. It would be long and painful and would require the type of bargaining that Paul and his supporters detest. Governing requires gross things like compromising and pragmatism. Things may not always go exactly as planned.
This may sound like I’m trying to justify the military tactics described in that New York Times article. I’m not. Possessing a kill list is awful. Drones are awful. Killing civilians is awful. Killing suspected terrorists without a trial is awful. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve yet to come across any sort of alternative method for combatting global terrorism, which is actually a real thing. It’s been ridiculously overblown and politicized—most likely for the benefit of the industrial part of the military-industrial complex—but it is real. The whole point of ideologies is that they aren’t real, they’re a set of beliefs, a way of seeing the world, a manner of thinking. If you want to truly engage in American politics and actually affect public policy, then you can’t be blindly guided by an ideology. Your solutions to problems must reflect the world in which they occur, a world that’s complex, and a world that doesn’t know how to follow rules.