Marc Thiessen, last week:
Today, the Obama administration is no longer attempting to capture men like these alive; it is simply killing them. This may be satisfying, but it comes at a price. With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can't tell you their plans to strike America.
The New York Times, today:
The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Following Thiessen's Foreign Policy piece, his new employers at the Washington Post decided to do a feature story built around his thesis, that the Obama administration is using drone attacks to substitute for capturing suspected terrorist targets. The example they gave, Saleh Ali Nabhan, was a target who couldn't be "captured" except at great cost, and so the administration made a judgment call. Even Thiessen, when pressed, has admitted that he thinks that would be the right thing to do under such circumstances. His real problem is that Obama isn't torturing people anymore.
I've already said my piece about the drone attacks, which I think are likely illegal, counterproductive, and less accurate than the government claims. But it's clear that Thiessen's argument -- that the Obama administration has ceased trying to interrogate terror suspects -- is complete nonsense. It also might be a good idea for the Post to avoid using Thiessen's ideas for feature stories on national security.
-- A. Serwer