I have to admit to being a bit mystified about some of the debate ongoing about the use of drones in military, tactical situations. I have heard the alarm – hysteria, almost – over the use of drones and the attempt to turn them into the boogeyman of our era. Rand Paul famously said, during his 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor, “No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.” Clearly not, but is the drone really the issue? I mean, if the same American were shot dead by a police officer when no charge existed and no indication were present that they were guilty of a crime, would we be OK with that? I don’t think so.
As in the debate on gun ownership, the drone isn’t the driving force, it’s the tool. Someone targets it, someone pushes the button authorizing it to engage its weapon systems, and that someone is the one responsible whether it’s a push of a button a continent away or the pull of a trigger at point-blank range. The issue is a matter of whether we’re OK with the idea that the President can unilaterally make a decision to kill an American citizen with no trial, no filing of charges, and no chance to confront his accusers. I shed no tears for terrorists who think blowing up a marketplace makes their point who get blotted out by a Brimstone missile. But when the target is an American citizen, my personal feelings aren’t the deciding factor. The Constitution is and the President has sworn an oath (yeah, I know – he doesn’t care that he did, but he did) to uphold it. He is required to treat Americans differently than enemy combatants on the battlefield. And that’s regardless of the weapon system he choses to use.