Wednesday, April 7, 2010

President asserts authority to order assassinations

President Obama has arrogated himself the power to authorize assassinations of American citizens, without trial, far from any battlefield. I think assassination of foreign entities is shady enough, and I don't understand the legal complications of 'enemy combatant' status or the importance of 'distance from a battlefield'. I am predisposed to limit any such authority, but this is a different ballpark altogether. An American citizen certainly has a constitutional right to due process and a trial before execution is exacted. This goes beyond anything even Bush's legal gymnasts asserted.

This news makes good companion reading for this Gene Healy essay. We are doing extreme violence to the rule of law to combat terrorism, which is nowhere close to being an existential threat. Terrorism is  made more damaging by the resources we expend in retaliation and the legal and ethical contortions we engage in. I've always thought terrorism should be viewed as something akin to a natural disaster. Crazy, evil, and violent people will sometimes manage to inflict damage regardless what we do. Preventative measures are well and good, but only insofar as the costs of these measures do not exceed the benefits. There's nothing special about terrorism that makes all costs worthwhile.

1 comment:

  1. I agree.

    On a related note, its been really disappointing to see Obama embrace the more controversial executive powers that were created in the Bush era.