Welcome Lloyd C. Gardner (Rutgers, Professor Emeritus of History) (Salon.com), and Host Toby Blomè (Facebook) (Toby Blomè – Drone Warfare Lecture)

Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare

Lloyd Gardner’s new book is an in depth historical analysis of President Obama’s foreign policy during his first 5 years in public office. In 2008, many Americans had deep trust that President Obama was going to bring significant change into the White House and guide our country to a place of more “rightful” and lawful foreign policy strategies by putting an end to torture, drawing down the illegal Iraq War, and closing down Guantanamo prison. President Obama promised the American public more transparency and accountability, and adherence to the rule of law, without “looking back”.

Killing Machine documents, through careful analysis and source citing, an even greater movement away from the rule of law as the Obama Administration rapidly expanded this county’s secret drone wars, giving the CIA even further paramilitary-like capabilities, and allowing the “intelligence gathering” agency to direct lethal policies independent of any government oversight or “game rules.” Mr. Gardner discusses in detail the internal struggles within the Administration’s first few years as officials favoring boots-on-the-ground and the “counterinsurgency approach” battled with others who argued for the “counterterrorism” approachwhich guaranteed minimal loss of American lives, a movement away from the battleground, and promised less overall cost. The counter-terrorism proponents won the battle ultimately, according to Gardner, which led to targeted killing by drones in even more countries: Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and who knows where else? New drone bases are being constructed rapidly both at home and abroad.

The deep secrecy of the targeted killing program, led by the CIA, and the President’s unwillingness to respond to repeated requests by Congress, lawyers and the public for legal justification, legal memos and details is all well documented in Killing Machine. The book discusses the targeted assassinations of Osama Bin Laden, and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric, and then two weeks later, his 16 year old son, and the debate and controversies arising from them.

Obama’s legacy following the Bush presidency is his movement away from capturing and detaining individuals that the U.S. identifies as threats to “national security” and a movement toward instant and easy elimination of these threats by high-tech, low risk assassination. Some of the biggest sacrifices or costs that come from these lethal policies are the high ratio of civilian casualties that is well hidden from the public and the damage to our world image and further movement away from any ethical base in foreign policy. But the most frightening cost is the precedent that Obama is setting for future presidencies and for other countries as the use of these lethal weapons spread around the world.

Today we will discuss with the author some of the serious concerns that his book raises and hopefully also have time to discuss things that we as American citizens can do to reverse this disturbing trend.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

99 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Lloyd C. Gardner, Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare”

BevW January 5th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Lloyd, Toby, Welcome to the Lake.

Toby, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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dakine01 January 5th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon Lloyd and Toby and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon.

Lloyd, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question and forgive me if you address this in there. It seems the same people who trumpet the “targeted killing” (implying no innocents are killed no matter the evidence of all the wedding celebrations that have been hit by drones) are often the same people who during the first gulf war were touting “smart bombs” as the “answer.” Do they ever admit in private how ludicrous they sound when they make these “targeted” claims after the news reports of dozens of innocents killed when going after one supposed bad guy?

RevBev January 5th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

To start, do you think the Pres. has any concerns/reservations about what he is doing? SUch as making the world more dangerous for the USA?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:03 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Good afternoon Bev and Lloyd!
Can’t wait to start

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Hi Lloyd,
What was the main reason that motivated you to write your book, The Killing Machine?

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Name names. Who are the leaders & high-influence members of the various factions in Obama regime?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

I think that governments very seldom admit to such errors. It took a long while for John Brennan even to admit that there was collateral damage – as they put it, even with drones.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:07 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 5

I wrote the book really to start debate about the whole issue. Actually, I had planned to write a book about the history of counterinsurgency – and drones overtook the whole question of how to fight against terrorists.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

What impact do you hope this book will have?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 6

Well, the most fateful meeting, I believe was with John Brennan and others who advised him in the period after his election — not only about drones specifically, but also about “Just War” theories. He had had Zbig as an adviser but dropped him.

Clearly, Hillary was important in some of these decisions, and also Susan Rice.

dakine01 January 5th, 2014 at 2:10 pm
In response to Lloyd C Gardner @ 7

Yeah, I detest that phrase (“Collateral damage”) – Orwell Newspeak in operation and allows Brennan et al to pretend to forget they are actually talking about humans

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

WRT dakine01′s Q, some would argue that killing wedding parties is part of the fundamental Obama policy of clash & smash.

That is to break up every country into pieces to foster U.S. hegemony. Seems to be working in some countries but not others. For example, despite best U.S. efforts to break up Pakistan, it completed its first election cycle ever in its history.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Lloyd, let’s move into your analysis of the early years of the Obama presidency and the topic of counterinsurgency or the “boots on the ground” approach vs. “counterterrorism” that includes house raids and drone strikes. Early in your book you discuss how Obama, by mid-2010, realized that counterinsurgency and endless occupation wasn’t working, and that, at that point, started moving more toward drone strikes as a main tactic to fighting “terrorism”. Could you elaborate on this a bit?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:13 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 9

If the whole question of drone warfare is treated as one as dangerous as poison gas after WWI it will be because of the international debate over “rules” for using drones — if any can be devised.

In the book I quote one policymaker as saying that without doubt drones will become the “long pole” in the war against presumed terrorists. It is also an example of our belief that there are technological solutions to nearly all military and political problems.

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Is Zbig still pulling strings from offstage? Seems like the Pivot to the Pacific comes from Zbig’s playbook of “he who controls Eurasia controls the world.”

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:14 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 12

This is an interesting thought. Considering wedding parties and funerals, etc. have occurred with great frequency. Initially I thought that they were accidental…..what do you think Lloyd?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I understand that Obama did direct more drone strikes in his first year in office than in all 8 years of the GW Bush era put together. Could it also be possible that he had every intention to rapidly expand the drone program from the beginning?

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

WRT people in the admin, McDonough & Dempsey seemed to have been the one who talked Obama out of bombing Syria. While Rice, Power & the r2p cabal were pushing him to bomb. What is your read on that tension?

Curt January 5th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hi Lloyd, in many respects, Law w/ a capital L is actually being used to legitmate criminal acts. Do you think this is made possible by the lack of accounting for the culprits?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:17 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 13

Well, I think that is a very complex matter. In 2007 when he was running for president he gave a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in which he seemed to have read and mastered the new Army manual on COIN. But then in 2009 when he ordered 30,000 troops to Afghanistan he put a time limit on the expedition. That was actually a kind of repudiation of the basic theory behind COIN. So it was always a bit contradictory.

The failure of the Marja “offensive” in 2010 was a really important factor as well. I try to spell all this out in the book. But he inserted Gen. Petraeus who said there was no change in the mission, but immediately stepped up night raids, etc., in part as a result of heavy criticism on Capitol Hill.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 15

Interesting comment. I don’t think so, but his influence may have outlived his actual presence in the inner circle.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:19 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 17

Certainly after his talks with Brennan, I would argue

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:22 pm
In response to Curt @ 19

Another interesting comment. I think the capital letters OLC — Office of Legal Counsel — is where law is being made today, and is a direct heritage of John Yoo in the Bush years. Just today there was an article in the NYT about how a case about FBI procedure would make it more difficult to challenge practices sanctioned by the OLC in one of their memos to the White House.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Lloyd, in your book you discuss that Obama in later years was moving away from “boots on the ground”/Counterinsurgency. But seeing that Obama is in direct negotiation with the Afghan government to settle on at bilateral agreement to keep U.S. troops on the ground up to 2024, it doesn’t seem that he has given up on the “counterinsurgency” approach. Is it possible that he is keeping both approaches very viable and alive?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

It seems that more and more what law means in this country is the rules that the current administration wants to set. Such secrecy and lack of accountability is shocking. How can we ever turn the tide and help our country become more lawful?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 18

Well, John Kerry was on that side, too, besides Power and Rice. We will never really know the answer to that one, I think, until more evidence emerges. We do know that Obama put it up to Congress, and got a resounding “No.” Then PM Cameron also lost a “procedural” vote in the HC that suggested America’s faithful ally would, for the first time, not be with us. So there were a lot of factors that led Kerry to accept the Russian overture to try to head off an attack.

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

never mind. I noticed you answered my point.

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 2:28 pm

In the last chapter of your book, you state that Congress has abandoned it’s duty to guard against White House “mission creep”? Why do you think this is so? Do the majority of those in congress only listen to big money (i.e. corporate) donors? Is there such fear of being seen as not being worried or doing enough about terrorism if there were to be another attack against the U.S., either abroad or even here at home? Do they just not think for themselves and are persuaded by the misinformation, yes even lies, of the government’s PR?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:28 pm

And now for a more lengthy discussion about how to stop,or better yet, prevent Terrorism:

A quote by Peter Ustinov goes:

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.”
To properly address terrorism it is important to understand the root cause, much like treating a threatening illness. A treatment would fail if it only treated the symptoms. However, our government, and our mainstream media rarely address this question: Why do ["poor"] people organize and use “terrorist” tactics against the U.S.?

One view of the roots of so called terrorism is that it is a response to U.S. foreign policy that is basically imperialistic with the goals of controlling resources and furthering the interests of corporations. Osama bin Laden stated that his war on the U.S. was in response, among other things, to the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. complicity in the oppression of the Palestinians. Then the best way to “fight” or actually prevent this hatred of the U.S. is to fundamentally change U.S. foreign policy. What are your thoughts?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:29 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 24

Everything that I read suggests that COIN — as a strategy is dead. The troops left behind — if there are any — will be for training purposes, and also, an attempt to referee disputes inside Afghanistan. There are arguments being made today that if we had managed to leave a few thousand in Iraq, the defeated Al Qaeda types would not be re-emerging the way they are today. 8,000 dead in Iraq last year — worst since 2008. We will hear lots of these kinds of arguments — and we will find ourselves having to accept Karzai’s “final offer.” Or at least that is what I speculate. Historians are not prophets — only political scientists can do that.

BevW January 5th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

You state that the OLC is making the Law, but where are the real decisions being made to pull the trigger / kill the “target”? Is it Executive level or at the “flight console” with a supervisor?

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hello. I haven’t had a chance to read you book, but as eCAHNomics so pithily asks, “Name names!”

I would like to know who financially benefits the most from a Drone strategy? Which one of Obama’s advisers is either getting money from these firms or has strong connections with these firms who will hire them later?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:33 pm
In response to Fred Bialy @ 28

Congress is notorious for not wanting to get mixed up in foreign affairs — unless there is a big goof up. They would rather have the president handle things. Here is a prime example: When the House passed the impeachment resolutions against Nixon, they left out one condemning the secret bombing of Cambodia. They said they had enough reasons. But had they passed that part of the resolution, it would have really given the 1973 War Resolution some teeth.

As for corporations, etc. Of course, yes, they have all sorts of influence. But when the president gets in trouble, then there will be hearings, etc., and sometimes action.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Interesting response. I’m very far from being an expert, but whenever I hear mention that troops left behind are for training purposes I am very wary. Our special ops, often housed in our multi-million dollar embassies, are doing some of the worst human rights violations….a few special ops troops can do way more damage than many more troops I believe.
What do you think?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:37 pm
In response to BevW @ 31

That goes to the heart of the matter. The NYT revealed in a long article in 2010 how the targets were being picked, and this was at the highest level in the WH. We were told how President Obama weighed each case, and agonized over them.

But what is clear is that the President acts through two different mechanisms, the Pentagon for actual “war zones,” and the CIA for strikes, say, in Yemen, etc. The growth of the CIA as a “Killing Machine” is at the center of the question of the imperial presidency.

masaccio January 5th, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I don’t quite understand how the legal memos undergirding the drone program are state secrets. How can Congress limit the President when it doesn’t understand just what laws and Constitutional provisions the President relies on for these programs? Are there no checks on Presidential authority?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:38 pm
In response to spocko @ 32

Yes, we certainly need much more info re: who are the profiteers!

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:39 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 34

Yes, of course, training them and leading them from behind, exactly like in the days of the French in Indochina, etc. Troops anywhere give one considerable leverage over the political leeway the host countries have.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:42 pm
In response to masaccio @ 36

Various senators and representatives have asked to see these documents. Ron Wyden, of course, and Rand Paul. There were resolutions on these issues that came close to passing a year or so ago. You are absolutely right.

And in my book I give the example of how Harold Koh was taken to a secret room to view the evidence Awlaki — and came away amazed at his evilness. I suspect that much of that evidence was supplied by a Danish double agent. Denmark’s close alliance with NSA has been revealed in the Snowden documents.

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 2:42 pm
In response to masaccio @ 36

Good question.

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I wonder if there is lobbying from those in government or from those who have influence over government to create a Presidency with increasing powers and one that is subject to less constraints from Congress. I got the idea that Dick Cheney was working for that well before he became Vice-President. And what about those think tanks charting a course for the country well before someone was in power to actual set that course.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Lloyd, Can we have any clear evidence that Obama really weighs in on every case of targeted killing?? For some reason I have a difficult time trusting this. But, more importantly, there is a big difference between weighing in on who will be on the kill list, vs. when a drone missile is fired. So much poor intelligence info leading to lots of errors, or “intentional error”?? From my readings, I get a sense that many of the drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen had no militants present. And at times, a militant’s name is given as a casualty of a strike, and that same name shows up in future strike(s)….as if they kill first and look later. The families who we met in Pakistan that lost loved ones in drone strikes corroborated this reality.

Curt January 5th, 2014 at 2:46 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 37

In a sense, the American public are the profiteers of imperialist adventure, enjoying a lifestyle made possible by spoils of empire.

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Yeah secret evidence that only certain people can see. Of course do these people have any expertise in telling the difference between real intel and intel with a low confidence level.

I’m reminded of how Dick Cheney asked for and received “raw intelligence” where there wasn’t info like, ‘Yeah, this guy is a drunk and a known liar. I have a 5% confidence rate in what he tells us.” As a prime example is “Curveball” who the Bush admin wanted to believe even though he was a known liar.’
^^

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:47 pm
In response to spocko @ 32

There is a long article today in an online journal titled “Financial Adviser” (I think, I don’t have it in front of me) about how drones will replace things like the multi-million dollar F-35s. And will become the new center of DOD spending.

Other articles I have seen from military-oriented mags talk about whole flights of drones that can make changes on their own en route to targets. They will be launched from mother ships — and it sounds to me like the monkeys from the Wizard of OZ.

In any event there are all sorts of plans for spending money on drones.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:49 pm
In response to Fred Bialy @ 41

Yes, absolutely, Cheney was working on that for years. And during the Irangate hearings he tried to turn the tables on the people who wanted to press limits, by using their own statistics on how many times the president had acted to intervene without Congress.

masaccio January 5th, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Again, the missing part of the puzzle is why these documents, or at least the legal reasoning, are secrets.

If this were an actual democracy, wouldn’t we have some idea of just how Obama justifies the program so we could change it if we didn’t agree?

Or is Congress just required to pass laws saying stop, without having a clue about what’s going on?

Curt January 5th, 2014 at 2:50 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 42

I think we really have to go to the question of whether assassination is ever acceptable.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:52 pm
In response to spocko @ 44

Here is another example. When Kerry was red hot to attack Assad in Syria he cited an article in the WSJ for proof of his evil-doing (he is a pretty bad guy, I will say), but Kerry had the NSA , CIA, etc. Yet he cited an article for proof, and it turned out the author was a paid agent of certain of the rebel groups, and did not have the academic credentials she claimed. We could cite these things from nearly every modern presidency.

It was Henry Kissinger’s view, you may remember, that Chileans did not have the right to elect a Marxist president.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I got a laugh about “monkeys from the Wizard of OZ”….but such a deeply troubling world that our government and the corporations are creating. I don’t envy the younger generation….will they have the creativity, resources and even interest to try to change it?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 2:53 pm
In response to masaccio @ 47

The OLC memos are secret because they are, in fact, works in progress – to be adapted to whatever need the president feels next.

BevW January 5th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

News this week

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected six research sites to help it test and map out the best way to safely bring unmanned aircraft into the heavily used U.S. airspace.


And push back to law enforcement use of drones

Who will be making the decisions on who is under surveillance – or “disarmed” by the drones in the US / local police jurisdictions?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:57 pm
In response to masaccio @ 47

Reposting…hopefully to stimulate a discussion about this.

A quote by Peter Ustinov goes:

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.”
To properly address terrorism it is important to understand the root cause, much like treating a threatening illness. A treatment would fail if it only treated the symptoms. However, our government, and our mainstream media rarely address this question: Why do ["poor"] people organize and use “terrorist” tactics against the U.S.?

One view of the roots of so called terrorism is that it is a response to U.S. foreign policy that is basically imperialistic with the goals of controlling resources and furthering the interests of corporations. Osama bin Laden stated that his war on the U.S. was in response, among other things, to the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. complicity in the oppression of the Palestinians. Then the best way to “fight” or actually prevent this hatred of the U.S. is to fundamentally change U.S. foreign policy. What are your thoughts?

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I think there are lots of cases where where government/people cite intelligence that fits the narrative that they are invested in or supports the path they have already chosen. That seems to be the case with the war with Iraq and WMD.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 2:59 pm
In response to Curt @ 48

I agree…it should never be legal, with drones or otherwise.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm
In response to Curt @ 48

Yes, that is a very important issue. I think that one thing we have to consider is the “Clear and Present Danger” question — and how that is being decided. It is for certain that signature strikes are about intimidation. Direct strikes can be for intimidation as well – e.g. Awlaki. You may not actually know if a person who is scheduled to fly to the US actually has a weapon that can escape detection somehow. But you know he intends to do it. Do you have the right and obligation to assassinate that person? In the days of ricin, etc. that is a tough call.

But, the question then arises, are drones the answer to that danger? Aren’t we creating more people willing to act against the US by employing drone strikes, as the recent one in Yemen?

Assassination is in fact pre-emption and we have to face up to that.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Excellent response….we need to ban pre-emptiveness!

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:03 pm
In response to BevW @ 52

In fact many communities are wrestling with this matter, and local ordinances are being passed on the whole matter of who will be in charge — and many are directed against their use in local situations inside the US.

It took Rand Paul to force Eric Holder to give a written pledge they would not be used against citizens inside this country.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Lloyd, below is a brilliant quote, you included, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in response to the proposal that a special court be created to approve any potential targeted killing of U.S. citizens:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.”
Tutu continues: “I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

Could you comment on the racism that Archbishop Tutu addresses in this statement and why you chose to include it in your book?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:07 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 53

Yes, Bishop Desmond Tutu — also a winner of the Nobel Prize — criticized drones as the equivalent of the 1850s Dred Scott decision, which defined slaves not as humans but property, without rights. Back in the 1920s it was Winston Churchill who approved bombing Iraqi dissidents. Same reasoning as our pro-drone folks give today: intimidation.

When we found during the old COIN days that those roadside bombs (asymmetrical warfare), IED’s and such, were very effective even against Humvees, drones appeared as the new solution. They are pro-active weapons, designed to stop things before they happen.

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 3:09 pm
In response to BevW @ 52

I too am interested in this. I have told people about “Kill Decision” a book from SF author Daniel Suarez which moves the drone story a few years in the future, where other nations now have drones and the drones are launched from ships (like flying monkeys?) and act like a swarm.

What I found most interesting was how the people who make drones knew that they couldn’t keep just selling drones for overseas work, but that they needed to develop a “domestic” market. And since surveillance wasn’t a big enough market they needed to figure out how to sell Armed Drones to the America people.

Method? They used a “9/11″ like attack from a drone on Americans to sell more drones. And of course the only defense against a bad man with a drone are good men with drones. Soon all the major cities needed armed defender drones as a precautionary purpose. Plus more surveillance drones of course.

marym in IL January 5th, 2014 at 3:09 pm

But you know he intends to do it.

I’m not clear what that would mean in reality, or if it has ever happened, so will not argue that particular point here. However, we are drone bombing people described more in terms of “suspected to be militants” or posthumously defined as militants because they’re “military-age males,” or people who are clearly rescuers after a previous drone attack. We should be careful not to conflate that with anything like a clear and present danger.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

So what do you think about the inherent racism evident in U.S.foreign policy and it’s global militarization? There are communities in S. Korea, Japan, Guam, Italy, the Philippines and elsewhere that have been struggling hard to stop the expansion of U.S. bases….but the U.S. show no consideration to their rights. Drones seem to be another racist tool…yes?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:13 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 59

I just did. Tutu’s comment was essentially a response to Obama’s Nobel Prize speech, in which he talked a lot of Niebhurian stuff about good and evil. And did not talk much about this critical issue. If we want to consider appearances, one reason Ike did not use atomic weapons in 1954 at Dienbienphu was concern that it would stir up Asian resentment after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. White folks against yellow folks, etc. And the danger of creating the very situation we seem to be approaching now — with the epicenter, as the NYT puts it today, in a struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The drone base we built in S. Arabia has inevitably become entangled in the Yemen situation, etc.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:13 pm
In response to spocko @ 61

Interesting!

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 3:14 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 63

I’m not sure it’s always an issue of race. It seems that the U.S. is acting like a bully. What it wants it’s going to go after, regardless of who is in the way.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:15 pm
In response to spocko @ 61

Scifi stuff. I need to get that book. Hey, this is already truth imitating fiction, viz. 24/7 and Homeland.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:16 pm
In response to Fred Bialy @ 66

Yes, but it also happens that most of the stuff we want to control happens to be in those countries. Moreover, if I were an anti-American plotter I would play the race card.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Do you think that there is any way to prevent the racist tendencies that might exist by anyone in control of high-tech easy killing with the push of button?
The risk that the “lives of others” will be less valued than those of ones own nation is so high that some who defend war would propose that all drone killing be banned. What do you think?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:19 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 63

But racism is largely geographic — my point is that if New Zealanders were the enemy, we would probably use drones. Why not say it is the technologically privileged societies against the rest of the world? Maybe that is another way of putting it?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

So what do you think about the idea that the best way to stop or prevent terrorism against the U.S. is to radically change foreign policy and end imperialistic expansionism?

Dearie January 5th, 2014 at 3:22 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 71

Thank you for that.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:23 pm
In response to marym in IL @ 62

Yes. Many people make threats. How does one determine which are the really serious ones, with capabilities to do harm? I don’t think anyone has a ready answer.

I read in the Guardian an article by a woman who worked on drones at the launching site that the idea one could really see who was armed and who was not down on the ground was, so far, pure fiction.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Interesting point, which I mostly agree. However, the industrial and privileged nations are mostly white. One Vietnam vet I know who is now a member of Veterans for Peace pointed out that the communities that we use drones on are like “sitting ducks” on the ground with no way to fight back. This is in agreement with your earlier mention of using drones as an intimidation weapon, and aligns with Tutu’s criticism of other folks lives being less valuable than our own. What do you think of the American publics silent acceptance of drone warfare….does that say something to the racism or arrogance in our own culture, or more about ignorance and the misinformation that is spewed out by government officials?

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 3:26 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 65

I actually invited the author of Kill Decision to come to this book Salon. I thought he would find it interesting. I think you might like the book. The title “Kill Decision” has to do with the issue of “What if the human was taken out of the loop when it came time to kill?” So instead of Obama saying, “Take this guy out.” on Tuesday and then on Thursday a pilot and gunner in Las Vegas shoot the person in Afghanistan. When the Drone finds the conditions or does facial recognition of the targets is kills them.

Because Suarez comes out of the world of military and IT contractors he sees who really runs things and why. To sell more product. Also who they are competing with for funds. If you are a company that makes only drones you will want to point out the risk of pilots and their 500 million dollar aircrafts. You could make 50 drones for that money. Plus you still need a team of 20 per drone. If you could put more brains in the drone you could have few people manage more.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:29 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 71

Well, there is much to be said for that, obviously, but do empires ever back off gracefully. The Brits did some places – not in others. There is a lot of talk these days about parallels with 1914; also a great article by Gopnik in the New Yorker about the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic. His point was that it is possible to take different routes. We’ll see.

It used to be that the American Empire was the empire that could not declare itself. All that changed after the end of the Cold War, and we became proud inheritors of the title “empire,” but always a good empire. There is a crucial role for the United States to play in the world. We can’t abdicate that role – but we can define the route it takes.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:30 pm
In response to spocko @ 75

I really, really, must get that book!

marym in IL January 5th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

There is some room for discussion about “the really serious ones, with capabilities to do harm” if by that you mean direct harm to the US (though I wouldn’t necessarily include US forces in places they shouldn’t be in the first place). However, the drone targets don’t seem to fit that category at all. Sorry, I don’t want to hijack the discussion on this one point, but what we’re doing and the supposed reason for doing it (danger to the US) don’t match.

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Dr. Gardner: In your introduction, you state your view “that the U.S. has already flown drones across constitutional boundaries and has them headed dead on for the foundations of the Republic”. Can you expand on your view here?

RevBev January 5th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

The “good” empire….This conversation will fit so well with the Dulles book when/if we ever get to have that Salon. Is there such a thing as a good empire?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Why can’t we abdicate the role we’ve held in the world? Don’t you think that our domination is putting the world’s well being at risk? Wouldn’t economic equality and an end to privilege help to foster a more peaceful world? The U.S. military is the entity that uses the greatest amount of fossil fuel in the world. For climate justice alone, it would behoove us to draw down the U.S. Empire.

Fred Bialy January 5th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

By whose judgement is it a “good” empire? When you think about all the meddling in other governments’ affairs usually to the detriment of the people of those countries, then I would not consider it good. I would say the U.S. because of it’s wealth and power, has the potential to play an important role in the world, but it can only do so if it has the world’s and not it’s own interests at the heart of those actions.

eCAHNomics January 5th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

What about Nye & Sharp & their planning the Arab spring. Ben Rhodes & the faux ouster of Assad in a movie set in Qatar?

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Getting back to our imperialistic interests and foreign policy being a root cause of terrorism:
Your book mentions a wealth of minerals (lithium, gold,etc.) in Afghanistan that the Pentagon, curiously, has been directly involved in assigning mining rights to multinational corporations for these minerals. The multinationals have already grabbed onto Iraqi oil, reaping huge profits. Do you think these realities could be directly related to the growing anti-American extremism in the Muslim world? And, revealing my ignorance, how often does the Pentagon get involved so directly in profit-making adventures like this one you mentioned?

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:41 pm
In response to Fred Bialy @ 79

I think that what has happened is that the OLC is now writing our laws. Drones are not the only thing that has caused this but it is one of the key elements. Garry Wills made the case some years ago that it all began with the a-bomb, and the football chained to a presidential aide. We have to trust the president — he or she is our only protection. Secrecy our only sure protection. The Constitution was for another time and place

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:43 pm
In response to Fred Bialy @ 82

Couldn’t the American public’s believe in the “good empire” be the drug that keeps us asleep at the wheel, or prevents us from taking the reigns to work together for significant change?

RevBev January 5th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

How long has it been since we had a President to be trusted? Im thinking….

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:45 pm
In response to RevBev @ 80

Good empire is a phrase — all imperial powers think of themselves as good empires. They sometimes do very good things, sometimes very bad things. They are designed to boost the metropolitan power’s standing and prosperity. There are people in empires who do great things for the world. So it is always a very mixed bag. The problem is that we have to adjust to a time when others control their own destiny. Hard to do. My grandson, looking at the Museum of London, liked the Roman period best – and commented that it has all been downhill since.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:45 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 83

Help me out here with more information.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

This being my first ever Book Salon, I’m amazed at how quickly the time is passing. Here’s another area of discussion:

Bradley, now Chelsea Manning, was quoted as saying that part of his motivation for leaking government documents was because of the extreme asymmetry of modern warfare. The people on the ground that are subject to 24/7 surveillance in Pakistan and Yemen, and periodic drone attacks are like sitting ducks, as mentioned. This asymmetry of warfare is expanding ever more rapidly, as drone technology spreads, with almost no government oversight. Do you think that extremist groups and “terrorist acts” will grow around the world in response to this brutal warfare that provides no “fair playing ground”? Or do you predict, that if we can’t stop it, that the U.S. will have succeeded in it’s “intimidation” strategy?

spocko January 5th, 2014 at 3:48 pm
In response to RevBev @ 87

Remember when one of the criteria for electing a President was, “Do you want them with their finger on the button?”

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:49 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 90

Ha!

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:49 pm
In response to RevBev @ 87

The whole lesson is that is why we supposedly have checks and balances. Presidents are only human. But the problem is, in part, we combine head of state with chief executive officer. Stalin recognized that at Yalta and made FDR the chairman of the Big Three, no doubt with an inner smile about how powerful the American president really can be in foreign policy.

But – and we can’t forget this — there are various interest groups that limit that policy in crucial areas of the world. No president can ignore ethnic questions and others.

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:50 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 90

Oops…I meant to say that …”or, if we can’t stop drone warfare, that the U.S. will succeed in it’s intimidation goals, and keep “terrorism” in check?

BevW January 5th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the final minutes of this great Book Salon discussion. Any last thoughts?

Lloyd, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, the Presidency and the evolution drone warfare.

Toby, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Lloyd’s website and book

Toby’s website

Thanks all, Have a great week. If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:53 pm
In response to Toby Blome @ 90

Short answer is yes. At the end of my book I took a quote from an Afghan source about a revenge that was planned for over a hundred years. The Bosnian struggles go back hundreds of years.

At the Paris Peace Conference, W Wilson said a certain territory should be German, because it had been for a long time, a hundred years. Clemenceau responded, in American history, a hundred years is a long time.

I do not think the intimidation strategy will work. We have been at it longer now than even the Vietnam War. Ironically, Kerry goes to Hanoi and warns Beijing! So there you are. Maybe big wars yield postwar reconciliation> But this situation seems more like the religious wars of early modern Europe.

Dearie January 5th, 2014 at 3:55 pm

the religious wars indeed….. an apt comparison.

Lloyd C Gardner January 5th, 2014 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 95

Thanks for having me. It has been great talking about these issues. I now want to move on in my own work to a bbook on “leakers” from Ellsberg to Snowden!

Out East it is dinner time – and then, of course, Downton Abby returns.

Best to all,
LLoyd

Toby Blome January 5th, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Time is running out and I wanted to leave some resources available for people who are participating in this discusson who are particularly disturbed by the ever expanding global war on terror and specifically want to keep up to date on breaking news about drone warfare and sharing info on current activism:

A national drone resistance network:

Find out about Drone resistance in specific areas of the country:
http://nodronesnetwork.blogspot.com/

Keep up to date on breaking news about drone warfare and share info on current anti-drone activisim:
nodrones@lists.riseup.net

I am part of a group that protests and does regular civil disobedience at Beale AFB, and elsewhere. I hope some of those online today will check the above links and join the movement to stop this drone madness!

Here’s info about ongoing resistance at Beale AFB, home of the Global Hawk drone in California:

https://www.facebook.com/OccupyBealeAirForceBase
http://www.OccupyBealeAFB.org

Other valuable sites:

http://www.DroneWatch.org
http://www.knowdrones.com/

Thanks to Bev and Lloyd and all who joined this discussion.
Sincerely,
Toby Blome

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