Its pushback against the charges leveled by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch notwithstanding, the Obama administration does seem conflicted over its drone policy. After 9/11, Congress passed an Authorization to Use Military Force — a sort of “Declaration of War Lite” — affirming the president’s power to fight al-Qaida. But four months ago, Obama called for the repeal of that authorization, explaining: “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.”
If there’s no war and no authorization, he would have diminished legal authority to use drones to “dismantle terrorist organizations.” And those implying that Obama and other Americans are war criminals would have a much more persuasive case. Why the White House would favor such an outcome is a puzzle.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security. Bill Roggio, who contributed to this column, is a senior fellow at FDD and the editor of its Long War Journal, which monitors U.S. drone attacks.