Thiessen’s thesis spreads

THIESSEN’S THESIS SPREADS…. Complaints from conservatives about President Obama killing too many terrorists are, believe it or not, becoming more common.

It started in earnest earlier this month, when former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, now a Washington Post columnist, argued that the White House is taking out too many bad guys before they can be captured and tortured. The position seems to be spreading.

At a panel on national security policy at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, a prominent lawyer from the Bush administration’s Department of Justice said he was concerned that the higher number of terrorist executions taking place under Obama was compromising U.S. intelligence operations.

“Why have executions increased?” asked Viet Dinh, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and one of the authors of the USA Patriot Act. Citing a recent Washington Post article on the increased targeted killing of terrorists, Dinh complained that “the president and vice president expound this fact as a fact that they are actually successful in war.”

“That doesn’t mean I think they are not illegitimate,” he added. “No, we have every right to kill the other side’s warriors. But at what cost? When we do not have an effective detention policy the only option we have is to kill them before we can detain them. And if we don’t detain them, we don’t know what they know and what they are up to.”

A few things come to mind. First, we might have a more effective detention policy if conservative Republican lawmakers were slightly less ridiculous about abandoning positions they embraced before Obama took office last year. The factors standing between the country and a sensible policy are fear, demagoguery, and an insatiable desire to score cheap points.

Second, Dinh’s timing could certainly be better — complaining about the Obama administration not capturing enough bad guys seems odd when it comes the same week that U.S. officials played a role in capturing the Taliban’s top military commander, two of the Taliban’s “shadow governors,” and as many as nine al-Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan.

But looking at the bigger picture, the complaint itself is bizarre. To help reduce the risk to U.S. troops, President Obama has ordered strikes that have killed dangerous terrorists. Of all the things for far-right Republicans to complain about, this has become a new talking point?

As we talked about the other day, consider the alternative. Imagine if President Obama and his team decided that they preferred to take out fewer terrorist leaders and would instead send U.S. servicemen and women into extraordinarily dangerous situations in order to capture more bad guys, in the hopes of interrogating them.

I think any honest person knows exactly what we’d be hearing from the media and Republicans: the president is refusing to kill terrorists and he’s needlessly putting the troops in harm’s way.

Heads, the right wins. Tails, the president loses.