The president’s second inaugural address wasn’t the first time I’ve been moved by his words. It wasn’t the first time he’s made me think, “Yeah, that IS the America I believe in, that IS the America I want to help realize, that IS the America that I want my son to grow up in”. The guy speaks my language. Sure he speaks it much, much better than I do but that’s beside the point. The reality of life, liberty and happiness is complicated to say the least and it will only be realized in fits and starts. As we address one issue we’re likely to glaze over another. Just take a look what’s happening with the long term budget problems vs the immediate unemployment crisis. Those banging the drum of the former can’t even bring themselves to consider the long term problems associated with such persistent unemployment, much less the short term. And for whatever reason, our pols are unable to think about these separate problems at the same time.
But then there’s the prez.
Obama’s inaugural address is only the latest in a long list of submissions that tells me he understands – as best as any one person can – both the complexity and the urgency of our position in the world . “We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.” That is some deeply, deeply resonant shit right there. But as poetically accurate and inspirational as it is, the truth is that supporting Obama is a bitch. Not because of the flack I catch at work for supporting and voting for him (or for being a liberal democrat in general). Not because of his questionable negotiating skills (though, if the recent debt ceiling bit is a sign of things to come, that narrative will be changing). Not even for keeping Timmy “Gotta-Save-Goldman” Geithner on board as treasury secretary for as long as he has. No, it’s not for any of those reasons. Supporting Obama is a bitch because of the drones. Plain and simple. And now, though they’re claiming not to be singling out the US, the UN is launching and investigation into drone warfare. This is the big piece of news from last week that got lost amid the inauguration and will likely be lost again this week amid immigration reform (though to be fair, that’s big news too).
Drone warfare represents a grey area in the “rules” international war – especially, as the US contends, if facing a “stateless” enemy. Though the drones fall under customary international law (CIL) and the law on armed conflict (LOAC), when coupled with technology that supposedly limits “proportionality” (i.e. collateral damage (i.e. killing someone’s child)) their use in the so-called war on terror somehow blurs these conventions – at least that’s what CIA director John Brennan and, I suspect, President Obama would have us believe. This is likely why the president chooses to glaze over the drones when envisioning America. But I’m not sold. And if the claims of second missile attacks that kill mourners at funerals for people from the first attack (hence the name ‘double tap’) turn out to be true, I’d be hard-pressed not to say that the president should be tried as a war criminal. But will he? Of course not. Some sort of international ex post facto law will relieve him – and ultimately us – of any accountability. So like I said, supporting Obama is a bitch.