Drone Warfare: The Upbeat News About the Obama Administration

At least, peering through the lens of Tom Barlett, blogging at the Chronicle of Higher Education, peering through the further lens of the latest issue of Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution publication that puts together various current articles and pieces from its community of fellows, typically reprinted from elsewhere or else excerpted.  As Bartlett says:

The latest issue of Defining Ideas, a publication of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has a lot to say about President Obama—and almost none of it is good …  the Obama administration’s increase in funding for public schools is “doomed to disappoint.” Meanwhile his “aloofness” on Iraq is “a hindrance to him when it comes to issuing any call to arms in Afghanistan.” Cap and trade “could be economically unproductive.” And Obama’s reaction to the brutal crackdown in the wake of the elections in Iran was “tepid at best” … The lone bright spot? Drone attacks on terrorists.

The “lone bright spot” is referring to an article of mine, excerpted from my Targeted Killing chapter in Ben Wittes’s Legislating the War on Terror book.  If you’re looking for a quick summary of the drone warfare discussion, you could do worse as a place to begin than the op-ed length Defining Ideas excerpt.  I’m happy to be the voice of Hooverly praise for the administration!   But speaking seriously, yes, I have been praising the administration, and in particular State Department Harold Koh’s statement in defense of drone warfare, as regular readers of this blog and Opinio Juris know.

(I keep saying this in part because I haven’t managed to find an op-ed space in which to publicly endorse what Legal Adviser Koh has said.  But having been very critical of the silence of the administration’s senior lawyers on this issue, I have wanted to make clear where I can that the Koh speech is a big step forward.)

Update with thanks to pointer from Cory Andrews:

I am unable to say more at this moment, but I did want to flag Robert Wright’s New York Times Opinionator blog post for your attention.  Wright is unhappy with both drone warfare and targeting of US citizens, and many other things besides:

Students of the law might raise a couple of questions: 1) Doesn’t it violate international law to fire missiles into Pakistan (especially on a roughly weekly basis) when the Pakistani government has given no formal authorization? 2) Wouldn’t firing a missile at al-Awlaki in Yemen compound the international-law question with a constitutional question — namely whether giving the death penalty to an American without judicially establishing his guilt deprives him of due process?

I’m not qualified to answer these questions, and, besides, it doesn’t really matter what the correct answers are. The Obama administration has its lawyers scurrying to convince us that the answers are no and no, somewhat as the Bush administration dispatched John Yoo to justify its torture policy.

Hmm. That said, I must flee the scene, though I’ll try to say something to various of these issues later on; my disagreement with this view is not exactly news to Our Regular Readers.

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