The principal function of government since 9/11, even if unintentional, has been to develop strategies to reduce individual liberties and transfer power to the government while not appearing to do so. Of course, neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama actually explains it in those terms. They say instead that they are making Americans safer, but their actions belie their words, as today’s United States is if anything less safe, more authoritarian, and far poorer. Every expansion of the imperial mission overseas, which of course is being sold as a war against terrorists, has been accompanied by new legislation in the United States that has made all Americans less free. The most recent anti-terror legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act, enables the government to detain indefinitely any American citizen suspected of involvement in terrorism, without any due process and without any right to trial.
Drones are the new tool of American hegemony. They are described by administration spokesmen, when they are mentioned at all, as having a constabulary function. That means that the American lawman in the form of a mechanical drone is delivering justice in a part of the world where the local government is either too weak or unwilling to do its own policing. It is easy to see the flaw in the argument. Sending a U.S. marshal to arrest someone after due process has been observed and a warrant has been issued is quite different from sending a machine into some other nation’s airspace and killing from several thousand feet up a suspect who might well be an American citizen traveling with family members (who will also die). So drone policing is essentially both immoral and illegal, a conclusion that has finally been reached by the United Nations, among others.