Reuters blog archive
from David Rohde:
President Obama’s decision to restrict drone strikes and again try to close the Guantanamo Bay prison are overdue steps in the right direction. Myself and many other analysts have called for these very measures over the last year.
Obama must actually follow through on implementation of his proposals, including pressuring Congress to close Guantanamo. And he should fully enact changes that can be carried out by the executive branch, such as handing over responsibility for drones strikes to the U.S. military and making them fully public.
As already occurs in American air strikes in Afghanistan, the military should fully investigate claims of civilian deaths and pay compensation where innocents are killed. The current practice of keeping CIA drone strikes secret allows militants to exaggerate the number of civilians who die. Drone strikes do kill senior militants at times, but using them excessively and keeping them secret sows anti-Americanism that jihadists use as a recruiting tool.
The immediate criticism of Obama's proposal from the right was both predictable and political. Any terrorist attack that occurs in the future, conservatives will argue, will be cited as proof that Obama and Democrats in general are not tough enough on terror.
from Stories I’d like to see:
1. The Rutgers basketball coach scandal as a window on NCAA sports:
Some of the stories about the firing of Rutgers basketball coach Michael Rice after a video of him abusing his players in practice was aired on ESPN referred to a 50 page report the university commissioned from an outside lawyer after the videos were first brought to school administrators’ attention. It’s this report that provided the rationale for the school initially to suspend and fine Rice but not dismiss him.
For reporters and columnists (like the New York Times’ Joe Nocera) who have been highlighting how the NCAA has become a profit machine that abuses its unpaid players, the report is worth diving into. It presents an amazingly candid, and grim, view of college athletics, and it would be great to get university presidents far and wide on the record commenting about it.
from The Great Debate:
A federal appeals court rebuffed the Obama administration's drone policy on Friday, ruling that the CIA stretched its considerable secrecy powers “too far.” The stinging decision may be the biggest news in the war on terror that you've never heard about.
The ruling lays down a key marker for a significant shift in counterterrorism policy. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has moved from detaining suspected terrorists to killing many of them in targeted attacks. There were 10 times as many drone deaths in 2010 as 2004, according to the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative. This is why there are now fewer pressing questions about detention or Guantanamo, a vestige of post-September 11 battles. The United States hardly ever captures any new terror suspects.
from David Rohde:
John Brennan’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday was a microcosm of the Obama administration’s approach to counterterrorism: The right assurances, with little transparency.
Brennan said the United States should publicly disclose when American drone attacks kill civilians. He called waterboarding “reprehensible” and vowed it would never occur under his watch. And he said that countering militancy should be “comprehensive,” not just “kinetic,” and involve diplomatic and development efforts as well.
from David Rohde:
“We will defend our people and uphold our values,” President Barack Obama declared, “through strength of arms and rule of law.”
Obama was right to describe the “rule of law” as a weapon the United States can use to defend itself. But the administration’s insistence on enveloping its counter-terrorism efforts in excessive secrecy flouts the rule of law. A proud American ideal is being turned into a liability, not an asset.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
The United States carried out more drone strikes in Afghanistan this year than it has done in all the years put together in Pakistan since it launched the covert air war there eight years ago. With all the attention and hand wringing focused on the operations in Pakistan, it's remarkable that such a ramp-up just over the border has gone virtually unnoticed.
The two battlegrounds are not the same, of course. Afghanistan is an open and hot battlefield where U.S. forces are deployed and the drones are part of the air support available to troops. Pakistan is a sovereign nation and the United States is not in a state of war with it and so you wouldn't expect the same pace of operations, even though U.S. commanders say the Taliban insurgency draws its sustenance from the sanctuaries in the Pakistani northwest.
from David Rohde:
When Barack Obama took the oath of office three years ago, no one associated the phrase "targeted killing" with his optimistic young presidency. In his inaugural address, the 47-year-old former constitutional law professor uttered the word "terror" only once. Instead, he promised to use technology to "harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."
Oddly, technology has enabled Obama to become something few expected: a president who has dramatically expanded the executive branch's ability to wage high-tech clandestine war. With a determination that has surprised many, Obama has embraced the CIA, expanded its powers and approved more targeted killings than any modern president. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush. And after promising to make counterterrorism operations more transparent and rein in executive power, Obama has arguably done the opposite, maintaining secrecy and expanding presidential authority.
from Bernd Debusmann:
Sometime in the next three decades, the U.S. military will be able to field robots that can make life-and-death decisions, operating without human supervision thanks to software and superfast computers.
But the technology to get to that point is running far ahead of considerations of the ethics of robotic warfare.
from Anthony De Rosa:
There is plenty that GOP candidates could use as fodder to attack Barack Obama. An unemployment rate of 9 percent for much of his presidency seems like awfully low-hanging fruit. So why in the world are they bothering to question the president on things that have little basis in reality?
Take Mitt Romney, for example. Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition Forum last week, Romney said, "This president appears more generous to our enemies than he is to our friends. Such is the natural tendency of someone who is unsure of America's strength -- or of America's rightful place in the world."
from The Great Debate:
By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.
The death of Anwar al-Awlaki this morning is welcome news, but Washington policymakers should not delude themselves into thinking the drone that killed him is a supernatural antidote to militancy. Yes, drone strikes should continue, but the real playing field continues to be the aftermath of the Arab spring; namely vital elections scheduled for October in Tunisia and November in Egypt.
A series of outstanding stories by reporters from Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times, have aptly laid out the stakes. Islamists are on the rise in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but an extraordinary battle is unfolding over the nature of Islam itself.