Charles Krauthammer: In defense of Obama's drone war

Published: February 15, 2013
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3. Who has the authority to decide life and death targeting?

In war, the ultimate authority is always the commander in chief and those in the lawful chain of command to whom he has delegated such authority.

This looks troubling. Obama sitting alone in the Oval Office deciding what individuals to kill. But how is that different from Lyndon Johnson sitting in his office choosing bombing targets in North Vietnam?

Moreover, we firebombed entire cities in World War II. Who chose? Commanders under the ultimate authority of the president. No judicial review, no outside legislative committee, no secret court, no authority above the president.

OK, you say. But today's war is entirely different: no front line, no end in sight.

So what? It's the jihadists who decided to make the world a battlefield and to wage war in perpetuity. Until they abandon the field, what choice do we have but to carry the fight to them?

We have our principles and precedents for lawful warmaking, and a growing body of case law for the more vexing complexities of the present war — for example, the treatment of suspected terrorists apprehended on U.S. soil. The courts having granted them varying degrees of habeas corpus protection, it is obvious that termination by drone is forbidden — unless Congress and the courts decide otherwise, which, short of a Taliban invasion from New Brunswick, is inconceivable.

Now, for those who believe that the war on terror is not war but law enforcement, (a) I concede that they will find the foregoing analysis to be useless and (b) I assert that they are living on a different and distant planet.

For us earthlings, on the other hand, the case for Obama's drone war is clear. Pity that his Justice Department couldn't make it.

Charles Krauthammer's email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

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