For a rarity the NY Times actually has a piece that will stimulate some discussion and it involves the "kill list" of President Obama. This is the list of overseas terrorists that deserve to get attacked by our UCAVs (or drones in less precise terminology) and to get sudden death out of the skies. This list was criticized by the Left during the term of President Bush (43) and then dropped off of the grievance list for the Left with the election of Obama. Thus it is indicative of being a purely political grievance based who is in office and what their party affiliation is.
The way that President Obama makes this "kill list" up is that he is presented with baseball card sized pictures of individuals and their terror resume on the back and he gives a yea or nay on each one. This is done in secret, so the actual methodology may vary, but that is the gist of it. There is discussion about how much power a President has as Executive and what Constitutional protections one gets as a citizen working with terrorists while overseas. Will Cain, talking on Real News from The Blaze (on GBTV) worried about the powers of a President in a war on terror that has no definitive end point to it (aka 'perpetual war' is the idea).
What has been missed is not is this doctrine effective (or short term effective but long term counter-productive as Buck Sexton puts it), which is to say is the 'targeted killing' doing 'the job', but is that a proper doctrine or just a tactic in this war? Again as the Left loves to point out 'terrorism is just a tactic and you can't wage war on a tactic'. That is, however, incorrect as terrorism is a methodology in search of founding principle and it is different than war fought with some terror techniques used by accountable actors: terrorists who fight under no flag are not accountable. Will Cain has problems with al Qaeda in Yemen morphing into some anti-regime force that even has ideas of putting together some sort of government, and is it right to go after them in this process?
Thus we have a doctrine that may be a tactic, a tactic which is a methodology and soldiers who aren't.
This is what you get after a century of twisting words and concepts around to fit political expediency: duckspeak.
From this you get the idea that both the Left and the Right have not one bit of a clue as to what they are talking about.
I cannot set matters straight on a large scale but can discuss what the actual principles are behind all of this (not the political twisting which is pure Progressivism/Liberalism/Socialism/Communism at work, and plain to see) but these matters of soldiers, war, methodology and tactics. Those are dead simple to figure out, if you bother to study warfare. What I will lay out is just practice of what I've written about before and following the path of what Nations are and what war is, and how it is waged, one can also discern powers granted to Nations via their citizens to conduct Public War both against Public and Private enemies of the Nation.
Lets start with the enemies since they are the simplest part to tease out. Public Enemies to a Nation are other Nations and those working for them with the assent of that Nation. They aren't gangsters roaming around with Tommyguns, by and large, although if they are funded by another Nation to do so, then they are Public Enemies. Criminals are an enemy to the private peace by disrespecting internal law and may be a threat to the public writ small, not the Nation writ large, and are thusly civil criminals. A Public Enemy is a Nation that is waging war against our Nation and a Private Enemy is a citizen or group of citizens who act on their own accord against one Nation which is a threat to all Nations by trying to overturn the order of Nations. Public Enemies you can make a peace treaty with and expect to have that respected. Private Enemies you can deprive of property and their lives, no peace can be made with them as they respect no international law amongst Nations nor do they abide by the most primal of civilized behavior to set aside our ability to make Private War to have society and a Nation.
Pirates, terrorists, brigands and those who just seize power and consider themselves accountable to no one and to be a law unto themselves, those are Private Enemies and they make Private War. What they cause is terror, and they are terrorists, and that is a part of what they are, not just what they do: it isn't a tactic but is a characteristic trait of waging Private War that is unaccountable. These ones are not soldiers as soldiers are part of an accountable military that has a structure, that has published codes and laws they adhere to and can be punished under, they wear uniforms, they do not wantonly attack civilians and other non-combatants and they adhere to standards set by a government of some sort.
The preceding paragraph answers the question of those who espouse wanting to overthrow a Nation: they can say as they wish, but do they actually put forth the accountability system by uniform, published codes and laws, people who publicly run them to be held accountable... that sort of thing makes them soldiers to a government that is trying to gain power by force of arms in a civil war. They must do all of those things to get that status. Even further their nascent government must be recognized as legitimate somewhere not just inside their country but by another Nation: they are seen as a legitimate brother Nation by some existing and established Nation. Without these things you can talk about overthrowing regimes as much as you like, but you aren't a soldier, just one causing terror on their own with no accountability, no cause and nothing you will adhere to so as to justify your activities.
As a recent example, the rebels in Libya at least managed to hint at putting some sort of governing board together along with some written rules, and even tried to form up into semi-discernable ranks. They actually failed miserably at doing any of these things, but it was enough to garner support from other Nations (mostly in Europe) who were willing to back their cause (which they couldn't figure out beyond 'kill Gaddaffy'). In a place like Syria, say, the population that has been going through an uprising really hasn't gotten its act together, mostly because they have been killed by the regime, threatened by both al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and generally are coming to realize that this major struggle for power between these terror organizations is just getting a lot of people killed. If you want to go after Asad for his murderous directions, then do not miss the other actors also doing a bit of murdering of civilians on their own in the coercive direction. As one local in Homs said to the leaving Blue Helmets: while you are here no one is fighting. Getting Asad is not really an end goal if you want to stop the fighting, as the terror organizations will then be left to do as they will in the power vacuum. With no one to support there, you will get chaos and a possibly fracturing Nation State along ethnic and religious lines (which could become a reality if the Kurds decide to secede and join their cousins in Iraq and petition for that). If you want to save the civil population in that scenario, then you are chasing a fairy tale unless you are looking at a major declaration of war against Syria for... no real reason at all as it is only a murderous regime without much in the way of natural resources beyond those phosphate mines that provide it with the basis for chem/bio/nuclear devices.
OK, maybe that is a good reason. But someone at the National level must make it, tell why it is important and then be willing to send a few tens of thousands of troops in. Russia already has a few thousand boots on the ground and they are doing doodly there. Guess they go into the 'well armed non-combatant category': cowards with guns. Lots of threats, no action. Loverly.
Now to get back on course, it would seem, on its face, that President Obama is acting in a kinda-sorta terrorist way with those "kill list" things he plays solitaire with. Should Deuce of Clubs Ahmed 'The Weasel' Mohammed be put on it? *flip* Oooooo... Ace of Spades 'Killer' Karzawi shows up, so 'The Weasel' gets saved by bigger fish! Perhaps it is done in a game of poker with each chip representing a UCAV and the ten spots being Hellfires. I'm sure they have some logical way to do this involving a high degree of chance and waffling. Be that as it may, the President is the head of a Nation and, thusly, accountable internally and externally to other Nations for his actions. The people he is going after are terrorists making Private War (not that Public sort) and fall within the Executive power to defend the Nation (all enemies foreign an domestic). Should American Citizens helping terrorists be put on cards to play with? Maybe the next round will be Pinochle....
What the card game represents is not doctrine, but methodology and piss poor methodology at that. A doctrine is a stated and set way of doing things to reach an objective, and drone strikes are just a means to that end, not an end in and of itself. Apparently we have had a couple of Presidents treating it as an end in itself that churns out dead terrorists. That isn't good because you have no idea what it takes to make the card list. And because no doctrine has been set by the President, the decision falls into his lap. He shouldn't have to figure it out on a case by case basis, just have the one or two iffy decisions cross his desk. In other words: doctrine is the means to delegate authority and set up the goals and objectives and the objective qualifications for making the "kill list". Without a set criteria you are just playing cards.
This card playing isn't disturbing because it is done in secret, per se, but that it has to be done at all by the President. If there was a set doctrine with criteria that gets you on the list, then that would be PUBLIC and you wouldn't need the secret card game. Period.
That is what a President is supposed to do.
Are there objective things that can be cited that can get you on the "kill list"?
There sure are!
The State Dept. has a list of known terrorists. Let them know they are all on the list and can be vaporized without notice any time, any where, by anyone the United States authorizes to do so. That doesn't matter if you are eating humus at your local falafel shop, spelunking in outer Uzbekistan, doing the disco in on vacay in Juarez. You are a Private Enemy of the United States, you have caused us harm to get on that list and if we can get you we will. Even better as you have caused monetary harm, we will seize your property as it is forfeit to the damages you have caused and since you aren't going to pay up, your stuff will be taken to help defray the cost of damages you have inflicted upon the Nation. That is called 'taking' and Congress can authorize that to civilians to do for it, or the President can have soldiers seize it from those we are at Private War with.
Who are those individuals?
They are on the Terror Watch List.
You make the list, your stuff can start vanishing around you. Hope you didn't like that BMW too much... its been airlifted to a US run chop-shop in LA. Or Bengal, or wherever we want to run it. Or it was sold at auction to the highest bidder in Moscow. Good luck getting it back from the Red Mafia, you know? Or do you want to be in debt to them? Sucks being a terrorist, huh? You could always turn yourself in, you know?
That last part is important as it helps to define just what other sort of people get to make that list. Anyone who makes Private War on the United States, citizen or non-citizen. You are no longer abiding by the Law of Nations, you are no longer considering yourself to be under any law, you are waging war on your lonesome and you only get Constitutional protection when you turn yourself in to the proper authorities.
There, that is two ways to do things and get the President less involved and the people who are much (much, much, much) better at making decisions into the loop. These are called 'subordinates'. You delegate duty to them. You give them well defined and set orders and they snap to attention and carry them out... sort of like what Valerie Jarrett expects of the Obamas.
To make it perfectly clear: it doesn't matter where you come from, the moment you decide to wage war on your lonesome against the Nation, you have declared yourself to be its enemy. Want your name cleared? Turn yourself in. Mind you where you end up next is under a court martial, not a civil trial, so the military can determine if you are a legal or illegal combatant or a civilian (that is the grand Choice #3 that they get in case you aren't actually a bomb throwing nut, and by deciding that your chance of a civil trial is essentially nil). Too bad that President Obama was so hot on closing Gitmo that he forgot (or never learned) that military law is its own beast and quite something different from civil law. Sucks when you are a Progressive/Socialist/New Party/Democrat who can't be bothered to learn the Constitution or history, isn't it?
What is even better about such things defining a "kill list"? You can put those who give material aid to terrorists on it, as well. Or at least their material aid and point out that if good old Ahmed 'The Weasel' is having roast goat and rice over at your house, you can be summarily vaporized with him. Oh, if he is going for a spin in Rolls Royce, it could also disappear into some lovely auction house in Singapore, too. Sucks that. Maybe you can authorize someone to get that sweet Beemer in Moscow for you, huh?
Such a list is self-delimiting: it has a limiting principle to it and requires next to no Presidential overhead beyond thinking up the criteria for the "kill list". Even that can be delegated to someone who knows what the hell they are doing... I would NOT suggest Eric Holder, as he is clueless and playing far too Fast & Loose with Fast & Furious. Get someone who actually knows the Constitution and a bit of military history, who isn't politicized to hell and gone, you know like the JCS, to do that thinking up for you. Sign off on it. Then you get an extra round of golf in every few weeks! What a sweet deal! You would get Transparency and the appearance of semi-competence or at least the ability to sign your name on a couple of things here and there and far less overhead to boot. Boy, wouldn't it be grand to have a semi-competent President? I'm not holding my breath for one, btw.
Setting doctrine is public.
The decisions get delegated to competent subordinates.
They do their duty knowing they have a good and objective "kill list" and are allowed to go after targets of opportunity.
The troops can do a bit of taking, get it signed off and get a few sweet cars to drive around and maybe a villa or two to sell off. Along with those crates of AKs and RPG rounds. The $300 Nikes are just gravy.
See, all those dusty tomes and tracts I've gone on about, de Vattel, Grotius, Pufendorf, those guys we can't bother to read any more, they actually told you what to do, why to do it, when to do it and how to do it, and left up methodology to operational concerns as they would vary over time. What you do to get those put against you, that is invariant as it is all about human nature. That hasn't changed any from the beginning of time. Remembering that it hasn't... that's the hard part.