Over at Slate, Dave Weigel reports on a new Farleigh-Dickinson poll which purports to show that a majority of Americans oppose drone strikes on American-born al-Qaeda leaders:
Via CNN, the new Farleigh-Dickinson poll finally, finally separates two questions about drone warfare. Question one: “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. Military using drones to carry out attacks abroad on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.?” The answer here, as it’s been in every poll, is a thudding “yes.” Seventy-five percent of people (the sample is 815 registered voters) approve. The lowest approval comes from self-identified Democrats, only 66 percent of whom are warm to drone warfare.
Then there’s this question:
To the best of your knowledge, can the U.S. target U.S. citizens living in other countries with drones, or is that illegal?
When the question’s asked that way, only 24 percent of people answer “yes.” The weakest support comes, again, from Democrats—only 23 percent of them endorse the practice, even though it’s currently being defended by the president they voted for.
One problem with that. Look at the phrasing of the question: “To the best of your knowledge, can the US target US citizens living in other countries with drones, or is that illegal?”
My goodness, I support the drone campaign and I would answer no. Any “US citizens living in other countries”? I only support killing US citizens who join al-Qaeda – not those simply vacationing in, say, Cozumel.
Last year, the Washington Post phrased the question differently and got a very different result. The Post poll found that 83% of Americans approve of our use of drone strikes against terror suspects overseas.
Then the paper asked:
What if those suspected terrorists are American citizens living in other countries? In that case do you approve or disapprove of the use of drones? (Emphasis added).
Result? 65% approved, while 26% disapproved – almost the reverse of the Farleigh Dickinson results. Moreover, Democrats approved of the drone strikes on American-born terrorists by a 58-33 margin, while self-described liberals approve of such strikes by a 55-35 margin.
I guess it matters if the American abroad is identified as a terrorist.
Americans seem to recognize that we are at war with al-Qaeda. The Supreme Court has been very clear that Americans citizens who join enemy forces “are enemy belligerents within the meaning of . . . the law of war” and can be killed or captured on foreign battlefields. If you fight for America’s enemies in a time of war, you should have no expectation that your citizenship provides you with some sort of protective bubble on the battlefield. To the contrary, if you are an American who joins al-Qaeda you are not only an enemy combatant, not only a terrorist – you are also a traitor. You deserve no special protection because you were born here in the United States.
With all apologies to the good folks at Farleigh Dickenson, the vast majority of Americans – including liberals and Democrats – agree.