President Obama apparently agrees although what gets him itchy is not the over-sized bus tour tourists taking photos of the “Notre Dame” cathedral in Paris but Americans spending too much time in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.


It was in Yemen that Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed in a drone strike by the US government. Two weeks later Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was killed in another drone strike.

All had links to Al-Qaeda so there can be some credible arguments justifying the American action but there is a catch. All three were American citizens. Wait, what? The US government is now carrying out ex-judicis executions of its citizens abroad? Pretty much, yes.

Drones have become Obama’s number one tool in the war against terrorists and it is easy to see why. They are awesome. They are small, hard to detect from the ground, but can carry lethal weapons.

They are unmanned, piloted remotely. This means that a drone in Yemen can be controlled by someone in Nevada or Florida. A “pilot” can sit in a cube at a military base in Nevada or Florida, take out some suspected Al-Qaeda members in Yemen via computer over lunch and then go shopping in Las Vegas after work.

This actually happens. It is not your imagination. It is war like a video game. It is cheaper and less dangerous (for your side) than sending in ground troops to pursue Al-Qaeda and also instills a sense of constant fear in the other guys. No matter where they are, they are not safe.

But like in any war things rarely go the way you plan it. Innocent people get hit and the death of every innocent person is an opportunity to motivate someone else to actually become an anti-American terrorist in order to wreak some kind of revenge upon an aggressor. It’s a video game, for sure, with very real consequences if you get it wrong.

Along with snow storms, the use of drones has created much talk in the US over the past week. Some Democrats are not enthralled with what they see as little oversight of targeted killings while some Republicans have found a reason to actually agree with the President’s methods.

“If you take up arms against America and you fight in a terrorist training camp or on the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen you shouldn’t be surprised if America reaches out and exacts justice against you,” said Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

Former Presidential candidate John McCain opposition was the CIA should not have a role in using drones – it should only be the military’s remit – while Republican Tom Cole said he preferred his terrorists alive rather than dead.

“Human intelligence is much more important than taking out individual targets,” he said.

Much focus is on President Obama’s domestic legacy – healthcare, immigration, gun control – he may also go down in history as the first President to reinvent America’s wars abroad, for better or worse.

And Republicans, for once, are mostly OK with that.

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