Friday, September 28, 2012


My response to Conor Friedersdorf’s op-ed in The Atlantic

By John Franklin Hay 

There may be other reasons to refuse to vote for Barack Obama for President on November 6, but the use of drones doesn't seem to me to be a very good one.

Seeing the link to an article published in The Atlantic posted on few young adult friends’ Facebook walls yesterday, and being upset by the title, “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama,” and the downcast photo of President Barack Obama that accompanied it, I decided to read it. (Link at the end of this post).

I’m glad I did. It doesn't seem to be the kind of the desperate, late-election smear effort that I thought it might be (and that has become so pathetically prevalent).  Conor Friederdorf is a good, emotive writer.  I'll categorize his piece as a valid tirade genre.  What makes it so is that he leaves out of his picture some rather important facts that impact his decision.

I share Conor's primary concern about America's use of drones in the war against terror and the awful impact this has on others and on America's integrity.  I repeatedly wrote to President GW Bush and now to President Obama both in opposition of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the use of drones.  I have protested these wars on the steps of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis and advocated extensively regarding them--even lost friends over my views.

On the other hand, I can't imagine being in President Obama's shoes: trying to end two costly wars that he didn't start and that most Americans didn't and don't want and at the same time trying to strategically, pointedly strike at the source--with the least possible amount of collateral damage--against terrorists who would do the world and those who value freedom harm.

So, to be clear (and this is what Conor omits): President Obama has ended the war in Iraq and will bring US troops home from Afghanistan in 2014 (sooner, I hope!).  The use of drones has been viewed by conservatives, liberals and military and peace experts alike as significantly limiting casualties on all sides. And, in fact, it is doing so. Still, the accumulative loss of civilian lives is a tragic witness.  But, this, too, must be measured against the 300,000+ civilian lives snuffed out by US military operations in Iraq.

On the other hand, the widening uses of drones on all fronts--including domestic applications--is a serious civil liberties issue for all citizens of the US and world to address. This is so whether Barack Obama or Mr. Romney is the next President.

So, the issue of the use of drones and the impacts, policies and statements surrounding them seems to be the crux of Mr. Friedersdorf's decision. I commend him that he is more liberal, progressive and idealistic than President Obama--and more progressive than me. That says a lot!  Romney and most conservatives are so far in the pro-war direction that their prescriptions surely do not even register in this particular response.

This will not prevent me from voting for President Obama.  From a broader perspective, I observe that he is essentially a person of integrity, balance, reason and sensitivity for all Americans. I see that he conveys a broad and caring worldview. I have followed him pretty closely since before he ran for President. I've read much of what he's written. I recommend "Dreams of My Father" for a look into his soul long before he thought of running for President.

I keep looking for the intentional duplicity in President Obama that right-wingers say is obvious and that Mr. Friederdorf infers, but I haven't found it.  I see him wrestling with difficult--even irreconcilable--dichotomies.  Yes, he has weaknesses and foibles. Yes, I have disagreements some of his decisions.  Yes, I have some disappointments.  Yes, there seems to have been some bad process and questionable policies occasionally.  But duplicity?  No.

In regard to the use of drones and their impacts, President Obama continues to openly confess his struggles regarding, among other weighty leadership matters, the use of war and military as a solution in conflicts at all.  I observe that, while he is decisive, his decisions to use deadly force do not seem to be thoughtless or callous and have been made in light of the desire to preserve life, provide for broad-based security, and limit casualties.

I would urge Mr. Friedersdorf and all who, like me, share a passion for preserving all life, valuing all people, and ending sanctioned destruction of life by the US military in Afghanistan, to reconsider their vote in a fuller light of these facts and reflections. Let's dare to continue to direct our dissent and hope in a more fruitful direction than dropping out.

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