I can't help but hear the Queen song, "Another One Bites the Dust," playing in my head as I read the news and write this column. Anwar al-Awalaki, the man believed to be the leader of Al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, died this morning in a multiple drone attack in rural Yemen.
Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, is upset about this. Ron Paul correctly points out that al-Awalaki was a U.S. citizen who was targeted for death by the United States government. A concept that it chilling.
Ron Paul is a member of the Republican Party. However, his guiding philosophy is Libertarian. Ron Paul is philosophically opposed to American interventionism and believes in the admonition of George Washington that we should not get involved in entangling alliances with foreign powers but should instead focus on the development of our own nation. Simply put, Ron Paul believes that we should not be in a war with nations that have not attacked us. More importantly, U.S. citizens are absolutely guaranteed the right to life until ordered forfeit by application of the due process of law. Those are philosophical points that are hard to argue with.
However, I must respectfully disagree with candidate Paul.
First, the U.S. Constitution applies to United States citizens only (although the Supreme Court has expanded application to resident aliens) and applies only within U.S. territory.
This may be justification for some sort of "cloak and dagger" operation where a CIA agent takes out a traitor in a Parisian bus terminal. (It's always Paris, isn't it?) But, while candidate Paul may wish to deny the fact, the United States is at war. We have no say so in it. We can deny it if we want to. We can refuse to fight if we chose. But war has been declared against us and our enemies are relentlessly trying to attack us and will not stop until they are unequivocally defeated.
This war is different from others. It was not declared by various nations (except Iran which we insist on ignoring) but rather by a religious philosophy and carried out by its devout believers. It is rather like when the U.S. Marines stormed the Shores of Tripoli to attack and wipe out the Barbary pirates. This type of asymmetrical war makes it difficult for nations like ours to effectively respond, but respond we must. The fact that our enemy is not a nation state does not mean that they will not attack us with nuclear weapons if the opportunity presents itself.
It is worth noting that many nations in Africa and the Middle East exist primarily in name only. Even in nations with long history, there are vast populations who identify themselves by their tribal affiliations, not national identity. In these tribal areas, the national government is virtually powerless.
As for al-Awalaki being a U.S. citizen, if we are at war, combatants are not under the protection of the U.S. Constitution. In the 1930s, U.S. citizens went "home" to Germany, Japan, Italy, etc. to take up arms for their "homeland," later killing U.S. citizens, and ultimately being killed by U.S. soldiers. Such is the nature of war.
There can be no doubt that al-Awalaki was at war with the U.S. As a modern American political philosopher has said, the purpose of war is to kill people and break things. To paraphrase General Patton, the idea is to make the other dumb son-of-a-buck die for his country.
I have no doubt that there is precedent from the U.S. Civil War of people who, by taking up arms with the enemy, surrendered their citizenship. I am fairly confident that the same principal was a formal part of American policy during World War II.
While I can see the "slippery slope" that no doubt concerns Ron Paul, the rules of war trump all others. They must. If they don't, and the nation is lost, then what was the purpose of those civil principals that the citizens enjoyed? Surely they were not intended to be a suicide pact. In war, the aggressor sets the rules and the attacked must defend or perish.
Anwar al-Awalaki is dead. He was killed by American forces under the order of the President. That is a good thing. Thank you Mr. President. Even more so, THANK YOU to the service men and women who successfully completed this mission.
I think I may celebrate his martyrdom this evening.