Speaking during a press conference in the Philippines, where he had just signed a new security agreement granting U.S. armed forces more of a presence in that nation, President Obama got a little irritated at those at home pressing that he get militarily tough with a number of nations behaving badly:
“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? . . . Frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.”
This was well said, but Obama’s restraint on military force does not apparently apply to drones with missiles. 55 people were killed by drone strikes in Yemen last week, at least three of whom were said to be civilians. And today we learn, thanks to the Guardian of London, that the U.S. Senate, upon the urging of the head of national intelligence, James Clapper, removed the required report on annual drone casualties from an intelligence authorization bill. Clapper wrote a letter to the Senate saying the administration prefers some other way of letting Americans know exactly whom drones are killing, some way that provides “context” and creates “a reporting structure that provides the American people additional information to inform their understanding of important government operations to protect our nation, while preserving the ability to continue those operations.” So knowing precisely how many people, including non-combatants and children, are killed by U.S. drone strikes requires government “context” and “structure?” Or would spin and obfuscation be better words? Congress often complains these days about wanting a true “balance of power”, but now the Senate gives up the legislative power to hold the executive branch accountable for its hushed-up drone war.
Regarding the war in Syria, there are now reports that the U.S. is arming certain rebel fighters with missile launchers that are not capable of taking down aircraft, thus avoiding possibly putting dangerous surface-to-air missiles in the hands of terrorists. But these new weapons in Syria will merely help the administration deflect some hawkish criticism while only helping both sides to prolong this terrible war.
Meanwhile, Sec. of State John Kerry felt he had to apologize , kind of, for suggesting that Israel is risking becoming an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t come to some peace agreement with the Palestinians that creates a two-state solution. This comes after Kerry had previously implied that Israel was at fault for the failure of the latest peace talks. Though the Abbas-Hamas deal has not helped matters–for Hamas has not renounced violence or confirmed Israel’s right to exist– Kerry has worked valiantly to prod both Israel and the Palestinians toward a working agreement.
The “Thou shalt not speak ill of Israeli policy” segment of the American political scene takes great umbrage at any suggestion that the U.S. is not supporting whatever Israel does or says. So having used the controversial term “apartheid” in relation to Israeli policy, Kerry later issued an official statement called “On Support for Israel” saying he wished he hadn’t used the term, a term that some prominent Israelis have used regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations. (Current Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel was also apparently criticized at one time for saying exactly what Kerry said, according to the group Jewish Voice for Peace.) For two other takes on whether or not Israel is an “apartheid state,” see these posts by Jeffrey Goldberg and Juan Cole.
Both Sen. Ted Cruz and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer are calling on Kerry to resign for his remark; I suggest Krauthammer resign and The Washington Post hire me. Actually, it would be ideal if all tyrants and other political purveyors and supporters of violence, war and oppression reconsidered or resigned immediately.