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Posted by on Feb 13, 2010 in International, Places, Politics, Society, War | 36 comments

Marc Thiessen: Obama Is Killing Too Many Terrorists

From the current issue of Foreign Policy:

President Barack Obama’s escalation of drone strikes is one area in the counterterrorism fight where he has earned plaudits from even his most vocal critics on the right. Hold the applause. Obama’s escalation of the “Predator War” comes at the very same time he has eliminated the CIA’s capability to capture senior terrorist leaders alive and interrogate them for information on new attacks. The Predator has become for President Obama what the cruise missile was to President Bill Clinton — an easy way to appear like he is taking tough action against terrorists, when he is really shying away from the hard decisions needed to protect the United States.

To be sure, unmanned drones are critical in the struggle against al Qaeda. They allow the United States to reach terrorists hiding in remote regions where it would be difficult for special operations forces to reach them, or to act on perishable intelligence when the only choice is to kill a terrorist or lose him. …

The problem is that Obama is increasingly using drone strikes as a substitute for operations to bring terrorist leaders in alive for questioning — and that is putting the country at risk. As one high-ranking CIA official explained to me, in an interview for my book Courting Disaster, “In the wake of 9/11, [the CIA] put forward a program that had a lethal component to strike back at the people who did this. But the other component was to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again. And for that, killing people — especially killing senior al Qaeda leaders — is potentially counterproductive in that we can’t know or learn of future attacks. You can’t kill them all, and you don’t want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew.”

That is Marc Thiessen, making holes in the bottom of the barrel, since he scraped the bottom of the barrel ages ago. He apparently is so unwilling to give Barack Obama credit for anything at all — even for something, as he himself says, that conservatives normally would be thrilled about — that he attacks him for taking out too many suspected terrorists. I’m sorry. That “suspected” was a mistake. There’s no doubt at all that everyone the government says is a terrorist, is a terrorist. Although come to think of it, I’m a bit surprised that Thiessen gives the Obama administration credit for that by assuming the drone strikes have killed terrorists rather than civilians. That’s giving Obama a smidgen of credit he doesn’t deserve.

To be fair, though, knowing how Thiessen’s mind works, he probably isn’t motivated solely by a desire to deny that Pres. Obama could possibly do anything positive for national security. At least half of it, I’m sure, is his crushing disappointment at having fewer “bad guys” to torture if Obama keeps killing so many of them.