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Pax Obama

Could it be that when Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama leaves office that the defining image of his presidency will have been his use of unmanned drone aircraft and military death squads to achieve the will of the Empire?

Hardly a week goes by in which we do not learn of the deaths of innocent civilians in Afghanistan or Pakistan resulting from attacks by U.S. drones.  Attack drones have also been deployed in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.  This form of pilotless aircraft can be used to inflict death and destruction anywhere in the world.  Drones are controlled by well-trained, high-tech, gutless assassins seated in air conditioned comfort in front of sophisticated instrument panels thousands of miles away from their intended targets.  The beauty of desktop, drone warfare is that it is neat, clean, precise, risk-free, sanitized, and bloodless and can be waged by those who have never set foot on a battlefield or smelled the stench of death.  It’s almost like playing a video game.

The Pentagon recently ordered 55 Global Hawk drones for a cool $23 billion.  There is even talk of converting the Burlington International Airport in Vermont into a drone base.

Drones represent the perfect instruments of war for a risk averse president who shies away from hand-to-hand political combat.  With drones are associated feelings of power and control.  We are in charge.  There is no face-to-face conflict whatsoever.

Drones also offer endless possibilities as surveillance aircraft for high-tech spying, a practice with which the Obama administration seems to feel quite comfortable.

Under the leadership of former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Pentagon will have U.S. Special Operations forces deployed in no less than 120 countries around the world by year-end.  These instant strike forces include Navy Seals, Army Delta Forces, Rangers, and Green Berets.  Special Operations forces have been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Navy Seals garnered international attention recently with their successful assassination attack on Osama bin Laden.  Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi surely would be next!

One can imagine a scenario in the not too distant future in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez receive phone calls from the White House saying, “Cease and desist, or be prepared to die.”  With high-tech, American death squads spread around the world, such a threat becomes increasingly credible.  Will this soon become the preferred way to deal with any nation which has the audacity to challenge the American way?  China and Russia might still be viewed as exceptions to the rule by the Pentagon.

By far, the most prescient line in President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech was, “There will be times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  Is it possible that what Obama really had in mind with his “hope and change” mantra was replacing old fashioned, conventional warfare with a more sophisticated, high-tech, stealthy, cowardly form of warfare involving drones and kinetic strike death squads?

“Meaningless!  Meaningless!” said the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes.  “Everything is meaningless!”

Thomas H. Naylor is Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of AffluenzaDownsizing the U.S.A., and The Search for Meaning.

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