Neoconservative propagandist Michael Rubin, writing today in Commentary magazine, attempts to defend the use of drones in the fight against the West’s enemies. Rubin begins his piece by writing:
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has announced an inquiry into the use of drones in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories, and whether drones violate international law. The inquiry comes at the request of Russia, China, and Pakistan, a triad of countries not known for their concern about human rights.
Rubin neglects to mention that the US and their ally Israel aren’t exactly known for its concerns about human rights either but that’s another story.
Rubin argues that:
Absent the use of drones, the other option available to states challenged with terrorists operating from hostile or ungoverned territories is to mount an expedition. It is the difference between conducting surgery with a scalpel versus an axe.
This is delusional nonsense. Firstly, a scalpel can be as deadly as an axe. A drone has as much fire-power as a conventional aircraft and very often it is innocent people that end up getting killed. Secondly, eventually an ‘expedition’ would have to be mounted anyway if one wishes to thoroughly defeat ones enemy. It can not be done entirely by airpower alone – drones or manned. Sooner or later one needs to go in and ‘mop-up’.
Human rights activists increasingly obsess about proportionality. Somehow, they believe that if terrorists or rogue groups have limited weaponry–rockets, mortars, and plastic explosives, for example–it is wrong to attack them with drones, F-18s, or JDAMs. This is nonsense, for the underlying implication is either that those conducting counter-terror operations must use substandard weaponry or that terrorists like Hamas, the Haqqani Network, and Al Qaeda should have access to F-18s and JDAMs as well. In effect, what humanitarian activists want to do is outlaw at least one aspect of the Powell Doctrine: The idea that if the United States is challenged, it should use overwhelming force against its enemy.
This is more delusional nonsense. The human rights activists’ argument about ‘proportionality’ is not about weapons used by the West but the death and mayhem they cause relative to the actions of those fighters defending themselves against the West. Just as the US demands the right to use overwhelming force against its enemies, why should not those defending themselves against the US use whatever means available to them? One might also ask why anyone has ‘challenged the US’. Neither Hamas, the Haqqani Network nor al Qaeda has invaded the US; it is the US and their allies that are attacking them and who are in their lands.
Rubin drones on:
I’ve never been opposed to targeted assassination. In 2006, I wrote a lengthy piece for National Review arguing for more targeted killings, especially when their use can save civilian lives. (It is ironic that criticism of the piece among the left stopped when President Obama came to office and made drones his signature counter-terror tool; it seems among many progressive websites, politics trumps principle.)
The problem here is that targeted killing attacks do not save civilian lives. Hundreds if not thousands of civilians have been killed by drones and, in the case of when Israel uses targeted killing attacks, very often the target is actually a civilian.
Rubin’s assertion that the left stopped criticising the use of targeted killings when Obama came to office is pure fantasy. Most people who are of the left in the West do not regard Obama as ‘left’ but, rather, just not as far right as Bush, the Republicans and the neoconservatives. The left has always been against the use of targeted killings no matter who is in office at the White House.
Rubin winds up his piece with:
The best defense against civilian casualties is not for the United Nations to launch politicized crusades against those engaged in the defense of democracies against terrorists, but rather to take a no-nonsense approach to terrorists and their sponsors.
The best defense against civilian casualties is for the US and their Western allies to keep out of other peoples countries and let them determine their own destinies. It may have escaped Rubin’s attention but it may well be that many cultures don’t actually want their ‘democracies defended’ – particularly by the US; indeed, many aren’t really all that interested in American style ‘democracy’ at all and when they are offered a go at it, they usually end up voting for its demise. They don’t want America fighting for them because they know that there’s always an ulterior motive behind it – one that usually costs them dearly.
Rubin can drone on all he likes about drones, most people on the planet find their use abhorrent.