At the end of last week we were consumed by the question of whether the President of the United States can order a drone strike on an American in the United States.
But why ask that question only about a drone?
Suppose that Obama decides that he wants Rush Limbaugh gone once and for all. He gives the order and B-52s from the 11th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are dispatched to put an end to the talk show host once and for all.
The B-52s arrive over Rush Limbaugh’s Palm Beach compound in under two hours and begin to pound away at his 2 acre estate dropping 2,000 pound bombs until absolutely nothing is left standing. Every building has been destroyed, the staff is dead, the golf courses are wrecked and there is no sign of life.
The 11th returns to base and receives a congratulatory call from Obama on a job well done.
Why can’t this happen?
For one thing it doesn’t make much sense. If Obama ever gets that determined to take down Rush, Team O will put together some ex-Feds turned private investigators to plant evidence of a Federal offense and then bring in the FBI. It’s a lot cheaper and less likely to make even Obama’s most loyal lapdogs balk at wrecking Palm Beach.
Federal prosecutors have nearly as good a track record at getting their man, innocent or guilty, as drones do. And they raise a lot fewer questions. Even mad dictators in totalitarian states aren’t known for sending air strikes to take out individual critics. Not unless they have no control over the territory that they are in.
So why not send in the B-52s to get rid of Rush Limbaugh? Because despite last week’s filibuster, military operations in the United States are far more restricted than law enforcement operations. The odds of a member of the United States Air Force killing you outside of a bar fight is very slim, but the odds of a member of a local or state police force killing you are far higher.
When it comes to the Federal government killing Americans, the civilian law enforcement side is far more likely to kill you than a USAF Staff Sergeant taking out Taliban across the border in Pakistan.
Every Federal agency has its own SWAT Team which is why every Federal agency is also buying up huge amounts of ammunition.
That means that you are far more likely to be shot by a SWAT team from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General than by a drone operator from the 3d Special Operations Squadron in New Mexico (Motto: Pro Patria, Pro Liberis – For Country, for Freedom.)
The DOE’s private police force has the authority to use lethal force, conduct undercover operations, including electronic surveillance, and may not have drones, but does have 12 gauge shotguns and far more authority to use them on you than the Staff Sergeant in New Mexico does.
The Department of Energy has two SWAT Teams. The National Parks Service has four. And if any of them do shoot you, it will not result in congressional hearings or collateral damage. Law enforcement officers kill hundreds of Americans every year. One more won’t be a big deal. And the militarization of the police and the proliferation of Special Response Units in the Federal government are a far more serious concern than being taken out by a drone while sitting in a Starbucks.
Military operations in the United States are fairly tightly constrained and while that line has blurred at times, it’s still a much more difficult and controversial process. Today’s military is far less likely to be deployed against civilians than in 1932 when General Douglas MacArthur and Major George Patton led a fixed bayonet charge across Pennsylvania Avenue to dislodge unemployed protesters to protect President Hoover. And that is because Federal law enforcement has been militarized to such a degree that it can cope with just about anything short of a full-fledged civil war. And whatever it doesn’t have now, it will soon enough.
But let’s get back to the B-52s bombing Rush Limbaugh’s mansion. We all know that’s not likely to happen. But the idea of flesh and blood pilots climbing into planes and dropping bombs across Palm Beach has too much reality to it. The power of the drone is that it appears to be inhuman. It’s a new technology and it can do anything.