Strong opinions, weakly held

The US government attempts to justify targeted killings

Today Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech in which he explained why the US government asserts that it has the right to assassinate suspected terrorists overseas, even if they are US citizens. I urge you to read the recap of the speech.

How does Holder justify the government’s logic? This way:

This is an indicator of our times, not a departure from our laws and our values.

My fundamental problem with the Bush administration was that it chose to put aside the rule of law in pursuing the so-called “war on terror.” My greatest disappointment in the Obama administration has been seeing it continue and even expand some of the worst practices of the Bush administration. As others have pointed out, the decision to do so has cemented these practices as national policy.

I commend the Attorney General for coming out and offering a justification for this decision, even if I disagree with it completely. I’ll be voting for Barack Obama this fall, and I imagine that a lot of readers of this blog will be as well, but it will be in spite of his policies in the war on terror, not because of them.


  1. Why would you vote for a man who masquerades as a Nobel Peace Laureate while killing his own citizens and destroying what’s left of the Constitution? Does it take 4 years to bring about a change? Will another 4 years make a difference? He shills for the monied interests while pretending to be a man of the people, meanwhile the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    Please understand that I’m not trying to vet either party or any particular candidate, nor would I try. I doubt any of the candidates would bring us anything but more of the same continuation of the crumbling American empire. I simply don’t understand why someone of good conscience can knowingly vote for someone who has committed such atrocities while pretending to speak on behalf of free men.

  2. It is sad, isn’t it? There is no way I could vote for anyone running this year but Obama, but like you, it will be in spite of his policies in the war on terror, not because of them

  3. I also intend to vote for Obama. What, in fact, is the threshold that would prevent you/me/anyone-who-intends-to-vote-Obama from voting for Obama? Is there any action he could potentially take, declaration he could make, that would change this intent?

  4. To respond to Jake’s comment: there are four options when it comes to voting.

    First, I could not vote. I’m certain there are no candidates who don’t violate any of the principles I think are important. However, even in 2008, over 40% of people eligible to vote didn’t show up. Will my non-vote do anything to cause the change I desire? No. Besides, I still pay taxes that fund the policies I disagree with and still participate in a society that pursues those policies. I suppose not voting could perhaps make me feel better, except that it doesn’t.

    The second option is to vote for a third party candidate. At the Presidential level, this is a non-option for me. I’d love to see viable third parties take gain influence, but unfortunately our political system at the federal level is structured such that the natural equilibrium is to have two strong parties that compete for the median voter. So I feel that most of the effort put toward third parties is largely wasted at that level. If people want to organize alternatives at the local level to effect change, I’m strongly in favor.

    The third option is to vote for the Republican nominee. Unfortunately, the Republicans are worse on every issue I disagree with President Obama on. My number one issue is opposition to any new wars, and the Republican candidates have all but pledged to start a war with Iran once they take office. President Obama’s policies in the war on terror are for the most part a travesty, but the Republicans are reliably worse. And of course on social and economic issues, the Republicans are literally wrong about everything.

    So the final option I’m left with is to vote for President Obama. If you are a liberal, at the Presidential level, it’s the only sensible option. My goal is to move the country’s politics to be more agreeable with my policy preferences, and the best way to do that with my Presidential vote is to vote for President Obama’s reelection. In primaries, I’ll vote for the most liberal candidates who can be elected. In conversations, I try to get more people to agree with me on the best course for the country. I am, at heart, a strategic voter and I’ll always choose the least bad viable option.

  5. “My number one issue is opposition to any new wars, and the Republican candidates have all but pledged to start a war with Iran once they take office.”

    Except Ron Paul.

  6. True, but sadly he will not be the Republican nominee. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t vote for Ron Paul in the general election, but I do think he’s better than President Obama on some issues.

  7. “Iā€™d love to see viable third parties take gain influence, but unfortunately our political system at the federal level is structured such that the natural equilibrium is to have two strong parties that compete for the median voter.”

    Rafe – isn’t this kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy though? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that have told me they wouldn’t vote for Paul (to use him as an example) because they don’t think he has a chance at winning, even though they feel he best represents them as a candidate for the presidency. Don’t misunderstand me though. He’s my candidate based on his record of consistency, not because of his personal beliefs. However, his ideals speak to the fact that freedom and liberty should be enjoyed by all, regardless of one’s personal beliefs, and I feel he’s the only candidate who can deliver on that promise. But if I felt the need to cop-out (no offense intended, that’s just how I see it) because he “can never win” then I would only be contributing to that problem.

    Make no mistake, the two-party system we’re tied to and forced to participate in because “we have no other choice” is a problem. It’s our fault that it has continued on so long and it’s our choice to let it continue. As such, we have the power to change it. I think it would be in our best national interest to push this issue to an open debate, as the false left-right paradigm of our nation only exists to further divide the people that would otherwise be working together to solve problems and make the world a better place.

    I’ve considered the no-vote option myself, and in the long run I don’t think it matters much (as typified in this article on C4SS http://c4ss.org/content/9819), but as an American citizen I feel compelled to vote because I’ve been brought up to believe it’s a part of my civic duty. Why then, can I not as a matter of conscience vote for the candidate that can best fulfill the obligations of the position at hand rather than defaulting to the lesser of two evils type scenario?

  8. Also, thank you for your response and for the enlightening discussion. šŸ™‚

  9. There are guys out there like Gov. Gary Johnson (the like Libertarian nominee) who are social liberals and fiscal conservatives. Guys who would actually work across party lines and for the good of the country. I don’t see how voting for a hyper-partisan like Obama will do anything to move this country forward.

    I just don’t get the “voting for the lesser of two evils”. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to vote for Obama or Romney/Santorum, I’d pull the trigger because that’s a choice between awful and awfuller.

    I get voting for Obama the first time because you wanted “not Bush” or “change”…but dang, Obama has carried on the worst of Bush’s policies and delivered marginal change.

  10. I understand people who are eager for substantial change and won’t vote for someone who will for the most part perpetuate the status quo. A vote for Obama (or the Republican nominee) is largely a vote to uphold a variety of policies that pretty much make me sick. At the same time, there is a gulf between them that I really, really care about. I don’t think President Obama has been great for the poor, for example, but Mitt Romney has promised a slate of policies that are absolutely terrible for the poor. That difference is very important to me.

    The problem with voting for a third party candidate for President is that you can, at most, expect it to result in lip service from whichever party they took votes away from. Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election, but that candidacy produced no meaningful change on any issue that’s important to Ralph Nader or the people who voted for him. I understand why people would vote for third parties based on pure principle, but I don’t think it’s an effective means of bringing about change.

  11. Rafe, I can’t disagree more strongly. There is without a doubt that Ross Perot’s candidacy results in serious attention to fiscal restraint. Without his run, I think Clinton would have been a very different President.

    Now you can easily argue that voting for a third party that gets 1% of the vote won’t result in anything significant, and I do agree with that.

    I guess I just don’t see voting for an R or a D is an effective means of bringing about change. Of course, thanks to gerrymandering, voting for the US House is meaningless in all but a handful of districts.

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