1) Judge, Jury, Executioner
The New York Times reports in Secret 'Kill List' Tests Obama's Principles:
Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy.
“He realizes this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence,” said Mr. Daley, the former chief of staff. “The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.”
But the control he exercises also appears to reflect Mr. Obama’s striking self-confidence: he believes, according to several people who have worked closely with him, that his own judgment should be brought to bear on strikes.The whole article is worth reading for its revelations about the way the President operates but the point here is fascinating and possibly disturbing.
It is President Obama who makes the final decision whether or not to hit specific terrorists. The article points out that despite President Obama's claims, it's hard to believe that the collateral damage claims are as limited as he says.
The editors of the New York Times are uncomfortable with the process. In Too Much Power for a President:
Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.
How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?Here the editors are simply expressing their overall disapproval of targeted assassinations. ("[P]ursued all methods?" Furthermore their claim about suspects involved in the 9/11 attacks is prefaced only with "It is clear." No proof is offered for this assertion.)
In his criticism of the President, Barack Obama: Drone Warrior, Charles Krauthammer writes:
A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.
This is not to argue against drone attacks. In principle, they are fully justified. No quarter need be given to terrorists who wear civilian clothes, hide among civilians and target civilians indiscriminately. But it is to question the moral amnesia of those whose delicate sensibilities were offended by the Bush methods that kept America safe for a decade — and who now embrace Obama’s campaign of assassination by remote control.My point in mentioning this also isn't to criticize the principle of killing terrorists by drone, but to point out the contrast between Israel and the United States. In an article that originally appeared in the Washington Post, Israel Faces ‘Tragic Dilemma' Over Targeted Killing, Laura Blumenfield described one instance where Israel used a smaller bomb on Hamas leaders because real time intelligence that indicated that the collateral damage would be too great:
On Sept. 6, as the 4 o'clock prayer time for Muslims approached, Dichter felt his chance to save Jews was slipping away. "Our sensors were watching the house, any minute the terror summit could end," he said.
Then an agent offered an intriguing piece of information. The house was three stories high. The curtains were closed on the third floor. Perhaps the Hamas leaders were meeting up there?
Gallant, the prime minister's adviser, called Sharon with a revised battle plan from Yaalon: The air force could drop a smaller bomb -- a quarter-ton -- destroy only the third floor and spare the civilians next door.It didn't work, the Hamas leaders all walked out of the building unharmed.
The President's claim that he's a "student of ... Augustine and ... Aquinas" comes across as pretentious and superficial. Israel has developed criteria based on need for determining when and if it will strike. But does anyone who criticizes Israel for its killing of terrorists criticize President Obama? The New York Times expressed its disappointment but was hardly condemning the President. If a Republican president were making the same decisions in the same manner, I'm sure the tone of the editorial would have been a lot harsher.
2) Two against the UN
In PJMedia, Anne Bayefsky remembers David Littman:
On May 20, 2012, at the age of 78, a unique fighting spirit was quelled with the passing of David Littman. For decades his tall, lanky figure and shock of grey hair could be seen jaunting into the meeting rooms of the UN human rights world in Geneva — to the chagrin of the representatives of Muslim states and UN officials.
In the two minutes that are allotted speakers from non-governmental organizations, David Littman would gather his notes, summon his unique voice, take aim at antisemites, Islamic extremists, and human rights frauds — and fire.
The resulting oratorical battles were infamous. Time and again the bullies representing states such as Egypt or Iran or Pakistan would interrupt David’s measly two minutes with points of order, inventing objections of all kinds. UN administrators were flummoxed by a man who refused to play by a set of rules designed to favor double-speak and adapted to silence the likes of David Littman.
In the early days of the “reformed” UN Human Rights Council that was created in 2006, David fearlessly quoted what he plainly and rightly called “the genocidal Jihadist Hamas Charter” and called attention to violations of the human rights of women, minorities, and dissidents in Muslim states. It was a critical moment in the history of the UN human rights system, as the representatives of Muslim countries were successfully commandeering the new UN human rights weapon to manufacture a shield based on alleged religious persecution. David Littman tried to sound the alarm and stand in the way of the oncoming tanks.Until now, I don't believe I'd heard of Mr. Littman. However, I am well aware of Jeane Kirkpatrick. Peter Collier writes about her in When Israel had a champion at the UN.
Jeane Kirkpatrick experienced an epiphany shortly after Ronald Reagan appointed her America’s permanent representative at the UN in 1981 when Israel’s ambassador Yehuda Blum came to her office for his first official visit.
She had been appalled during the previous four years by what she regarded as the Carter administration’s contemptuous attitude toward the Jewish state, and particularly by the way that preceding UN ambassadors Andrew Young and Donald McHenry had, respectively, criticized the Jewish state as “stubborn and intransigent” (and met secretly with the PLO representative), and voted for Resolution 465 condemning Israel’s occupation of “Arab territories including Jerusalem.”
Technorati Tag: Israel and UN and Jeane Kirkpatrick and David Littman.But she didn’t realize how deeply these attitudes had penetrated the US mission until she saw the way the career foreign service officers she inherited from the previous administration dismissively referred to Blum by his first name and rudely interrupted him on this first visit. She sternly pointed out to them that Blum was a Holocaust survivor who spoke nine languages, and angrily ordered them out of the room.(Collier recently published a book about Dr. Kirkpatrick, I assume that this is an excerpt though the Jerusalem Post isn't clear.)
In 2003, the Rabbi of my synagogue wanted to honor Dr. Kirkpatrick. He was surprised when she answered the phone at her office herself. She was willing to speak and asked only for a ride to Baltimore for the event. She explained that after what she saw in the UN she resolved that she would talk to any Jewish group - for free - to let them know what a hostile environment the UN was towards Jews and Israel.