Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare

Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare

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by Lloyd C. Gardner
     
 

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With Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008, many believed the United States had entered a new era: Obama came into office with high expectations that he would end the war in Iraq and initiate a new foreign policy that would reestablish American values and the United States’ leadership role in the world.

In this shattering new assessment,…  See more details below

Overview

With Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008, many believed the United States had entered a new era: Obama came into office with high expectations that he would end the war in Iraq and initiate a new foreign policy that would reestablish American values and the United States’ leadership role in the world.

In this shattering new assessment, historian Lloyd C. Gardner argues that, despite cosmetic changes, Obama has simply built on the expanding power base of presidential power that reaches back across decades and through multiple administrations.

The new president ended the “enhanced interrogation” policy of the Bush administration but did not abandon the concept of preemption. Obama withdrew from Iraq but has institutionalized drone warfare—including the White House’s central role in selecting targets. What has come into view, Gardner argues, is the new face of American presidential power: high–tech, secretive, global, and lethal.

Killing Machine skillfully narrates the drawdown in Iraq, the counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan, the rise of the use of drones, and targeted assassinations from al-Awlaki to Bin Laden—drawing from the words of key players in these actions as well as their major public critics. With unparalleled historical perspective, Gardner’s book is the new touchstone for understanding not only the Obama administration but the American presidency itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/02/2013
Counterinsurgency flopped in Afghanistan, declares veteran policy analyst and Rutgers emeritus professor of history Gardner (The Long Road to Baghdad), in this uncomfortably shrewd analysis of America’s perpetual yearning for a high-tech, low-casualty way to win wars. Gardner delivers an engrossing blow-by-blow account of a decade of fierce debates and painful events that offer excruciating parallels with the Vietnam War. By President Obama’s second administration, pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan was irresistible. The bloom was off counterinsurgency—it required too much money, too much time, and a competent Afghan government. Drones seemed to be the solution, and, as a bonus, they could strike terrorists anywhere, from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. Critics declared that these targeted assassinations disturb our allies, enrage governments, feed insurgencies by killing innocent bystanders, flout the Constitution by targeting American citizens, and maintain the secretive, pugnacious, jingoistic policies of the Bush administration, which Obama vowed to abolish. Gardner concludes that drones offer a deceptively easy way to continue our seemingly perpetual war against terrorism, but at the expense of the Constitution. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

A Publishers Weekly Book of the Week (November 11, 2013)

"Gardner delivers an engrossing blow-by-blow account of a decade of fierce debates and painful events that offer excruciating parallels with the Vietnam War."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gardner's treatment of this brave new mode of presidential war-making is admirably comprehensive."
Bookforum

Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-10
Straightforward, rigorous account of how President Barack Obama's embrace of high-tech militarism is changing the parameters of the presidency. Gardner (Emeritus, History/Rutgers Univ.; The Road to Tahrir Square: Egypt and the United States from the Rise of Nasser to the Fall of Mubarak, 2011, etc.) presents a deeper narrative than the title implies, essentially utilizing the George W. Bush administration's decision to pursue war in Iraq at the expense of the Afghanistan campaign necessitated by 9/11 as a flash point that altered our ability to respond to terrorist threats. Thus, though the author concurs that Obama the constitutional scholar "fell into the embrace of Reaper and Predator drones by circumstances beyond his control," he still holds responsible the president and his various high-end deputies for blithely advocating their increased use in controversial environments like Pakistan and Yemen. Gardner excels at presenting a lucid narrative that focuses on both dramatic military events--such as the pursuit of the U.S.-born firebrand preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, put on the drone "kill list" after the 2009 "underwear bomb" attempt against an American airliner--and the complex ballet of political calculations that underlie America's aggressive foreign policy stance. Attentive to the issue's legal and moral complexities, the author depicts the insidious qualities of drones' attractiveness to both Obama and his many advisers, beyond the threat of imminent terrorism embodied by al-Awlaki: "Fighting insurgencies was supposedly a different matter altogether, and there was the rub." Ultimately, the high-tech lethality and legal obfuscation of drone warfare both suggest a handy metaphor for American power and a terrifying portent of the global future: By 2011, following American dissatisfaction with the ground war in Afghanistan, it seemed "the drone had replaced counterinsurgency." And even though the increased reliance on drones appeared cost-free, "Obama found himself in danger of losing control of the momentum of drone warfare" as he looked past his own second term. An evenhanded yet grim assessment of the growing consensus regarding "the lethal presidency."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595589439
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
11/12/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
1,147,347
File size:
562 KB

Meet the Author

Lloyd C. Gardner is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University and the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including The Long Road to Baghdad and Three Kings (both available from The New Press). He lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

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Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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