Out: Drones. In: Slush Funds.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 28 2014 11:48 AM

Out: Drones. In: Slush Funds.

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Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

A year ago, President Obama's "drone speech" appeared to temporarily assuage anger about the use of unmanned weapons on terrorist targets. In reality, the subsequent revelations of Edward Snowden, which started a week later, tamped down the backlash to drones directed anger elsewhere. So Obama got away with a strawman argument that asked Americans to pick one: Drones of land war. "Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies and impacts public opinion overseas," he said.

There was a little more to work with in today's speech:

[A]s I said last year, in taking direct action, we must uphold standards that reflect our values. That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is near certainty of no civilian casualties. For our actions should meet a simple test: we must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.
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That's... not a test that can be calculated for results very quickly, is it? But it feels like a diversion from this:
Earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel. Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines. These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.
Given that there's a (slowly) growing sentiment in favor of repealing the Authorization of Military Force, which was passed after 9/11 and is used to justify drone warfare and the rest of the war on terror, this will strike people as an end-run.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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