Charles Krauthammer Goes "Hard Left" and Rants Against Domestic Drones: Or, Killing People Abroad is Okay, But Spying at Home is Wrong


America is currently in a bit of a freaking out over domestic drones phase. The mostly ignoring the murderous effects of drones overseas, even in countries like Pakistan and Yemen with whom American is not technically at war — well, that bit has been happening for a while.

A perfect example of the disconnect between something being okay when used on alleged enemies but an utter outrage when used against Americans is the recent comments by conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on America's rapidly approaching future of drone-filled skies. This by the way, noted Slate, is near indeed:

On Monday, the FAA released new rules governing the use of surveillance drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) by domestic public safety agencies, such as law enforcement and fire departments. Interested agencies can apply for expedited approval of drones weighing up to 25 pounds.  The drones may not fly higher than 400 feet and must be in sight of an operator at all times. They also cannot fly near airports.

Krauthammer, who has a pretty high tolerance for American intervention overseas (and occasionally waves away congressional safeguards like the War Powers Act because to declare war properly is so archaic) went downright libertarian recently on the question of whether drones should be come a normal part of the skies, the horizon, and the purple mountains' majesty. Because dammit, war is war, but at home — Americans live there.

So Krauthammer went on Fox News this week and told Brett Baier:

I'm going to go hard left on you here, I'm going ACLU. I don't want regulations, I don't want restrictions, I want a ban on this. Drones are instruments of war. The Founders had a great aversion to any instruments of war, the use of the military inside even the United States. It didn't like standing armies, it has all kinds of statutes of using the army in the country.

To further lampshade the point, Krauthammer also said:

It ought to be used in Somalia, to hunt the bad guys, but not in America. I don't want to see it hovering over anybody's home. 

Somalia! There's the third in the trifecta of countries that get drone-attacks, but no declarations of war. 

Krauthammer went on to bemoan the fact that London has a terrifying amount of CCTV cameras and generally went on a bizarrely great (especially given his history) pro-privacy and pro-liberty rant. He also said he predicted "the first guy who uses a second amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's been hovering over his house will be a folk hero in this country." Though he was not "encouraging" that of course.

Krauthammer was part of a larger panel, and it was an interesting one, and in some ways it was a libertarian's dream to have mainstream voices talking so intensely about drawing lines in the sand when it comes to government. The Daily Caller's man in charge, Tucker Carlson, also spoke out strongly in favor of privacy and an across-the-board ban of domestic drone use, as well as his opposition to militarized police.

But there's still that fun-house quality of being all for freedoms and safeguards for Americans, but never mind these drones raining hellfire missiles from above upon people who live very far away indeed. 

Friend of and contributor to Reason Andrew Napolitano also went on Fox News this week to talk drones. He, unsurprisingly, said that warrant-less surveillance of Americans is illegal. Napolitano also echoed Krauthammer's sentiments that the response to an American shooting down a drone would (and should) be an elevation to folk hero status (this is possibly giving Americans too much credit). Napolitano at least managed to drop a disparaging comment about the illegal war in Libya before he linked rhetorical arms with Krauthammer and said he was quite right to be nervous and outraged (I don't think the two of them often agree on things so that's rather cozy).

It's nice that Krauthammer is on the correct side of this, with his righteous and sensible paranoia. Even if, as Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, it's kind of horrific that to be opposed to incessant drones is to be "hard-left". Still, Krauthammer's thesis needs no digging or inference to find; To spy on Americans without cause is a monstrous violation. To kill foreigners without even an official declaration of war is merely the correct use of such a technology.

Meanwhile, a drone is credited with the December surveillance-gathering in Iraq that lead to Turkish air-strikes that killed 30 civilians. 

Reason on drones 


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      1. I feel your pain.

    2. Hey, I thought the comment system had a ‘word with too many characters’ test to prevent this sort of thing.

      How did this underscore-abusing eyesore slip through?

      1. There’s a space in there somewhere.

        1. There were spaces around the exclamation marks !!

          1. Does this mean the machines are smarter than us?

            1. The bad news: Yes, they’re smarter than us.

              The good news: They aren’t exactly making the best use of the superior intelligence. With the effort they spend in spamming the Internet with these dating ads, they could have started the Apocalypse by now.

              1. They don’t give a shit whether or not anyone here clicks on them. Their goal is to create lots of links back to their site, which will give them a better search engine ranking.

                1. True. I think that the squirrels are sleeping tonight.

                  1. In the Server, the mighty Server
                    The Squirrels sleep tonight

      2. I’m more curious about the breast character in the .com portion of the link. That’s definitely a non-ASCII character.

    3. Somebody needs to get this link to Goldwater, stat!

    4. I tried this site and got mauled by a mountain lion. STAY AWAY. F–.

  2. Krauthammer goes hard left? The guy is a neocon, but left? I don’t think so.

    I actually gained a little respect for Krauty when he posted that article about how the Rs need to take Libertarians seriously if they don’t want us Ls to become a 3rd major party. I can’t remember where that article was now…, maybe the Washington Post or the Weekly Standard?… not sure.

    1. He does seem to be putting out signals that he is willing to negotiate: how about this neocons, a real fiscal cut, 1.2 trillion, with a 280 billion cut in the defense budget, massive base closings, ending occupations, in exchange, 50 billion of that goes to Israel to boost their defensive capability. I would prefer ending foreign aid altogether, but the savings here might even be better. Deal?

      1. I think the best way to get the GOP to buy into defense cuts is to talk about how much of the DOD is nothing but bureaucratic waste and fraud. Talk about the huge numbers of paper pushing civilian employees. Talk about all the stupid politically correct bullshit that infects what’s supposed to be a lean mean killing machine.

  3. LS, I found the most interesting sentence in the article to be this one:

    “Krauthammer was part of a larger panel, and it was an interesting one and in some ways was a libertarian’s dream.”

    Yes, Krauthammer is wrong on foreign policy, but his position on domestic surveillance is pro-liberty. Perhaps the same is true of other panelists.

    So why not be more upbeat – there should be more rejoicing in Libertarian land when one Krauthammer takes a principled, firm pro-freedom position than when 99 Ron Pauls do so.

    1. Because I was feeling cranky and unsettled? I mean, it’s better that he is better on this than he was back in his “situational libertarianism” days. But still, he rants about freedom for Americans, then breezily suggests that this horror-technology is fit for stalking people in Yemen. If he hadn’t been surprisingly good on the domestic issue, I wouldn’t have bothered to be as annoyed and troubled by his predictably pro-war stance.

      1. What this news says to me is, “even a bomb-first-ask-questions-later imperialist like Krauthammer is saying WTF to the growing surveillance state, and he and his fellow panelists make what might be a helpful protest against it.”

        There – I cheered myself up with that reframing!

        1. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, cheer up, and always look on the bright side of…well, you know what I mean.

          1. *starts whistling*

          2. Life’s a piece of shit, when you look at it, life’s a laugh and death’s a joke it’s true, you’ll see it’s all a show, people laughing as you go, but remember that the last laugh is on you!

            (blows up)

      2. But still, he rants about freedom for Americans, then breezily suggests that this horror-technology is fit for stalking people in Yemen.

        And when the two groups intersect (like an American that happens to be in Yemen), he defaults to the “murderdrones are cool” position.

        Fuck him. He values life depending on on one’s location at the time. Sorry, but that’s just wrong.

        1. +100,000 to you, sir.

      3. The United States government exists to protect the liberty of Americans, not Somalis or Yemenis or Pakistanis.

        That would seem to be a fairly obvious reason why US government use of drones against foreigners is less worrisome than IS use of drones against the people it is supposed to be protecting the liberty of.

        1. Wrong genius, that’s not what the Constitution says.

          And declare war formally, and stop killing civilians with drones. And wars of offense suck.

          1. Even if the Constitution forbade it — and it doesn’t — it would still be less worrisome for our government to spy on and kill foreigners than it is for them to do it to us.

            As for the rest of your complaints, they aren’t relevant to this discussion.

        2. What about an American in Yemen?

      4. “Hard left” to describe a position that is libertarian, not left, frightens and confuses me. Today’s left doesn’t typically oppose state use of force unless there’s some political reason for doing so.

    2. So why not be more upbeat – there should be more rejoicing in Libertarian land when one Krauthammer takes a principled, firm pro-freedom position

      How long have you been around Libertarians? Most of them/us are extremely cynical to the point of it being depressing. I tend to be that way myself sometimes, but at least I mix in some optimism when it is warranted.

      Do you remember when Jim DeMint agreed to be interviewed by Reason and took a brutal assualt that would make most politicians hide under their bed crying for their mommy, and fully acknowledged that the Libertarians must be granted a place in the GOP if the GOP is to thrive? And most posters here on Reason just blew off DeMint or insulted him?

      We really have to adjust our attitude a little, and I’m not talking backing off on any issues. But when a guy comes out for open debate and acknoweldges you as legit, you don’t just kick him in the balls and heckle him.

      1. Yes, if good news is rare, it should be treated like any other rare thing – valued more highly than if it happened all the time. Basic economics!

        1. Rare supply is not the same thing as high demand.

          1. Tough crowd.

      2. Alright, I’ve had my nice Libertarian moment for the day. Back to cynical sarcasm and anarchy.

        1. Hurray!

          1. Kudos to you Lucy for being willing to hang out and chat it up with this crowd.

            Nice Libertarian me isn’t that bad, is he? ):

      3. Opposition to the domestic use of drones or other military-grade hardware should be a default position for any American. We’re so far gone that that is being positioned like it’s a radical position.

        Groovy that there’s opposition; not groovy at all that there is even a debate.

  4. Conor Friedersdorf ?

    What’s more surprising is Krauthammer’s shift on 2nd Amendment solutions.

  5. Sounds like Lucy would be happier if Krauthammer wanted to hunt Americans the way Obama does.


  6. So is K. conceding that the 2A covers antiaircraft weapons? Like we all know it does?

  7. Lucy, this post makes the repressed English major in me cry.

    1. Shhhhhh.

    2. Lucy, this post makes the repressed English major in me cry.

      There’s a buttsecks joke in there somewhere, but I’m just too damn lazy.

      1. Something about Whitman and “the amplitude of time,” I think.

          1. Hankering, gross, mystical, nude… and that’s Warty on a good night.

            1. For those who don’t know what Warty looks like: http://bank.imgdumpr.com/wp-co…..132948.jpg

              1. More or less, except that I’m not cool enough to play guitar.

                1. Yeah, but the fact that you have them around you with all of the guns, that is still pretty cool. If any of the guitars have illegal rosewood that would piss of the EPA, that is +200 cool points.

                  1. One of those guitars is from the guitar video game – “guitar heroes” or something, and I can’t even tell if the other one has strings, so I doubt that dude can play the guitar, either.

                    So it probably is Warty.

                    1. And that’s a bunch of cheap, gay guns. He just needs some throwing stars to make it complete.

  8. How is not liking the drones hard left? I think most of the people out there who say they want to shoot them down are not liberals. There’s some really mixed up media commentators out there.

    1. “Hard left” is Dr. Strangelove’s way of saying “almost vaguely human”.

  9. I’m sure the producers of Inglourious Basterds were a little irritated for not being able to use the name “Krauthammer” due to its conservative association. Chuck is revered in the pages of National Review, so some feathers may be ruffled for the better.

    It bothers me that Americans have greater concerns for Americans than others. A saw a list a while back of all the nationalities that died on 9/11; can anyone really say they were more concerned for the American, in the same event? My affection for American exceptionalism ends at the closing of The West, and the more I read about Australia, the less unique that even seems. This country’s just a jurisdiction to me, better than the others, but nothing to get emotional about. Human life is human life.

    1. Just to clarify – I know there are differences in how we treat Americans because of the Constitution and our laws, but that’s just due to the nature of The State and its operations. I don’t see any ethical difference.

    2. Yes. Especially that very last sentence.

      1. In grad school I had to read this game theory paper by an economics professor about the influence of torture and savagery in World War 2 as a strategy for combat. It touched on things like how a side practicing torture not only scared the enemy, but scared its own troops into thinking the enemy treats POWs the same way. But the most shocking factor in his analysis was the civilian to friendly combatant death ratio a side was willing to accept; indifference to foreign life makes a huge difference, unfortunately.

        Back when the Red Baron flew, you (exaggeratedly) saw the whites of the enemy’s eyes when you shot him down. My co-worker’s son pilots drones in Afghanistan, and essentially treats them like little more than GPS coordinates, and I’m sure his superiors convert those coordinates to numbers, where they become charges on a capacitor, and then on a hard disk. It’s hard for his mom, though.

        1. I see what you are getting at with the trend towards the de-humanization/de-personalization in modern conflict.

          But, I have been watching a documentary on the civil war, and even though they saw the whites of each others eyes, literally, it sure did not keep them from killing the shit out of each other. And then you think back to the savagery of times long gone…

          I am not sure that there is lack of human progress towards less violence because of the lack of as much up close and personal factor.

          1. I think you’re right, there are probably plenty of factors that go into the decline of violence, and personal contact may even make it worse in some cases where there’s cultural animosity (in that paper I mentioned, the Russians and Germans were monsters to one another, even while Americans were treated fairly well on the European fronts); I mean, my co-worker’s son knows what the consequences are. But just for me personally, if a task gets broken down into procedures, of which I’m just one of many cogs, and I never actually see the result, then it’s easier to do it. I worked for the Department of Defense for two years until the consequences of my job hit me hard enough to quit.

            A little off topic, but what if you found out that, when you were playing [insert online First Person Shooter here] and graphical realism is at a crazy high level, you were actually controlling a surrogate into battle, except that only 1/1000 systems were set-up that way, like a lone live round at an execution, so you probably never killed anyone, but couldn’t be sure?

            1. Food for thought, BOI. You could write a new dystopian novel based on the subject of your last paragraph.

              I love video games. I think one reason is that it allows one to virtually live that primitive brain urge of killing someone, being the easiest solution to a conflict, without actually hurting anyone, which the modern more logical brain is appalled by, at least for some of us these days.

              1. Someone already wrote Ender’s Game, unfortunately.

                1. More of a roulette dynamic to Ender’s Game, and more “every man”. Perhaps the enemy hacked the government system, found out who killed the others, and swore revenge, causing you to live a life of fear, where you relive your battles and compare them to news events in an attempt to find out if you committed the atrocities, slowly turning you into a monster?

              2. Wasn’t this the plot to the movie Gamer?

            2. That ” single live round at an execution” thing has never made sense ro me. If you’ve ever fired a gun with blanks, you’ll know there is so little recoil that there would be no mistaking whether you had a live round. Also the powder used in blanks is different, faster burning powder that smells differently and flashes differently. No way would that make sense if the intent were to shield the shooter from the kkowledge that he fired the killing shot.

        2. To be blunt – that’s how you win wars. Be as savage as possible, on as large a scale as possible.

          Part of the reason we haven’t won in Afghanistan is that we aren’t savage enough.

          You think punching GPS coordinates into a drone is savage? Compared to what? Carpet bombing the whole village with heavy bombers? Fire bombing them?

          Look at who finally turned the tide in The Civil War – Sherman, who pretty much laid waste everything he saw.

          1. Sure and we didn’t win in Vietnam for the same reason. Miserable quagmires can sometimes be solved by bombing the hell out of everybody. And yes, drones are LESS bad than just about all of the 20th century. Doesn’t mean they’re not a problem. Especially if the people being killed are as distant as punching in an address on Google maps.

            1. We didn’t win in Vietnam, in part, because we backed off the Operation Phoenix assassinations.Kill the leaders and if you have to kill anyone else target their families.Prioritize the male offspring. It ain’t pretty but it is far morally superior to killing masses of conscript young adults or indiscriminate civilians.

              1. That works both ways, which is why politicians don’t normally support such measures, because they put their own families at risk as well.

          2. No, punching in coordinates isn’t savage. It’s routine and mundane and divorced from the seriousness of the action. If a savage went rogue and firebombed an Afghan village I would hear about it; a family getting bombed by a drone, probably not. These days, I consider the latter to be more dangerous.

    3. You mean like in turning Mexico into a war zone and empowering drug cartels that behead people and hang others from bridges, so we can make a weed illegal? Or like burning villages of peasants in Columbia? That bothers you? They are just dirty Latin peasants. We must save the Childrin!

      Australia? The blokes that just made Kratom and some video games illegal? There are trying to outdo even the USSA on being statist fucktards. I wouldn’t look to them as an example of anything good.

      1. No, just with regard to the development of The Frontier 100+ years ago. Back before adventure died.

        1. Progressives have killed the fuck out of adventure. We can’t even have a space program anymore. Someone might get hurt, fucking pussies. If the Europeans would have all been progressive back in the 1500s, The Aztecs or Incas would still rule all of the Americas, and Europe would be a socialist shithole, sort of like… it is now.

          1. You know, as much as I disliked Gingrich for his government-sponsored space program, I loved his imagination and drive for it. I think Reagan is overrated, but his quick speech after the space shuttle explosion has some elements you won’t see expressed these days with regard to risk and the unknown.

            I grew up in South Africa, and remember as a kid during vacation climbing on the rocks at the edge of the 200 meter drop-off into the Zambezi below Victoria Falls. No hand rails, no fences. My dad told me to be careful, because the rocks were slippery. That’s not a testament to my ballsiness, which has all been neutered out of me in exchange for comfort, but to that mentality that taking the extra step to get the better view might be worth it, even if dangerous. I heard from a friend the fences are up now, though.

            1. I pretty much despised Nukular Newton Grimgrinch for everything during the campaign, except for the space program statement.

              I grew up watching moon landings. Since then we haven’t done shit. An embarrassing joke of a shuttle program, and what else? Nothing. I am beyond disappointed about it. The future of space is private enterprise, or it is nothing. We die here when the sun goes red giant in another billion years or so. Yes, I do believe that politicians can keep us dumbed down for that long as to not again even escape earth orbit.

              If there is one thing the now failure of the Nasa space program has taught me, it’s that government will eventually screw up anything no matter how well it started out. Of course there are 1000 other examples of the government teaching me that. But that is the one that still pisses me off the most.

              1. “government will eventually screw up anything” no truer words spoken. Of course the future of space is private enterprise. The future of almost anything worthwhile is private enterprise. Unless of course you’re into spending 10x more than necessary for less than half what you were promised. In which case by all means, trust government to run it.

    4. Is it really that shocking that people are more concerned about people they know in everyday real life, their friends and neighbors, than people halfway around the world that live in an entirely different culture? One that seems quite barbaric?

      Australia is a great example – I don’t think people like him would be happy if we were using drones to kill Americans in Australia, either, or GB or Canada or say, Monaco.

      History can be viewed as a struggle between civilizations and barbarians.The barbarians always win in the end, but civilizations that decide not to fight back die a lot quicker.

      1. No, it’s not shocking that they would care more about Americans than people in faraway countries. I do the same. We all do.

        The problem is the total inability to realize that those people are just as worthy of life as Americans. They’re a separate category to people, not just emotionally but in a very chilly fashion they just don’t count like Americans count.

        Sure, you care more about your family than the family in Yemen, but that doesn’t mean that a rant against drones in America that completely brushes off their use overseas isn’t hypocritical.

        1. No, it’s not shocking that they would care more about Americans than people in faraway countries. I do the same. We all do.

          Actually, we don’t all do that. I get just as pissed off when I hear about atrocities in foreign lands as I do when I hear about it here. Maybe that is not normal, but I think that it should be.

          1. It’s not normal, and I frankly don’t believe you.

            1. And be aware that I am not calling you a liar per se, it’s just I think this just like those people who consider themselves healthy eaters when polled – you want to be just as outrage, I just don’t believe you actually are. If you were, you’d be commenting on, i dunno, Janjaweed blogs or something.

              1. Randian, with all due respect I don’t give a fuck whether you believe me or not. I have family that are not American and don’t live here. I really do not have any national loyalty anymore, at all. Not that I don’t think sovereign nations should exist. Quite to the contrary I think that they MUST exist. But I still see people as people. You don’t believe me, your choice.

            2. It’s not normal, and I frankly don’t believe you.

              [When] all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquility as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger tomorrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he would snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred million of his brethren.

              Adam Smith, in Theory of Moral Sentiments

        2. You were right to criticize Kraut, he is such a statist.

          I only tolerate some neocons because they are more open to Libertarians.

          1. It appears that he actually has been trying to be more open to Libertarians, even if it is in a stiff and somewhat resisting neocon way. Is that not at all a good thing?

      2. Yeah, but we are mostly talking about attacking Iran. Those Iranians aren’t even human. They live over there in one of those deserts, and they all ride camels for Christs sake. They pray to some false God, as opposed to our real one, and they wear towels on their head all day. Why shouldn’t we kill them? I hear that they don’t even bleed if you shoot em!

        1. I also heard they don’t like bacon and strippers. Barbarians.

          1. Going by the Iranians I’ve known, maybe not so much against strippers.

  10. A perfect example of the disconnect between something being okay when used on alleged enemies but an utter outrage when used against Americans is

    Nuclear weapons?
    Armored divisions?
    Strategic bombers?

    1. In the event of a full scale insurrection by the states against Washintgon, do you think President Obama or President Romney wouldn’t hesitate to use two of those options to repress it?

      1. If he, whoever he was, wanted to be the last President of the USA on planet Earth, that would be a good way to assure that legacy.

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  13. Without a certain amount of casual indifference to the lives of foreigners, you do not have much argument against humanitarian interventions where the US has no direct interest. Remember, the undeclared war in Libya was justified by the fear of massacres of civilians. Cosmopolitan instinct does not make for a non-busybody foreign policy.

  14. Drone pilots are the biggest COWARDS of them all!


  15. I was watching this a few nights ago – and was very happy to hear Krauthammer’s comments.

    You Libertarian whiners are too busy bitching to realize you’re winning.

    The Obama Administration and the Federal Law Enforcement apparatus has reached the point that middle-of-the-road conservatives are outraged. They are waking up, dropping their statist ways and seeing the light. Stop being dicks and embrace your new allies.

    1. I rather hope you’rep right. Even though I am still worried about the whole killing people abroad thing.

  16. Wow, did this discussion get off topic or what? Drones (which, by the way, is the wrong term) have so much more potential than surveillance and, in a civil context, they’re not going to remotely kill anyone. By your knee-jerk, shoot-them-out-of-the-sky-and-become-a-hero hysteria, you grudgingly agree with Krauthammer and demand all Remotely Piloted Aircraft (correct term) be outlawed at once. What about the entrepreneur who wants to develop and sell an unmanned crop duster or the company that wants to develop remotely piloted search and rescue aircraft or disaster first-responder aircraft or remotely piloted forest fire-fighting aircraft. Because “drones” have a military application they or any variation of them should never fly in U.S. airspace?? Really?? And you are libertarians?

  17. murderous effects of drones overseas
    Killing bad guys and collateral damage =/= ‘murderous’. This is Riggs-retard syndrome here.

    even in countries like Pakistan and Yemen with whom American is not technically at war

    SIGH. Lucy you only highlight the vacuousness of your case against the Drone Wars with this crap. No, we’re not at war with these countries but we are at war with some of the groups within them. It is not that fucking hard.

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