No one wants to set the precedent that abuse of power will be punished, because it’d bite them. I’d say though that if that fact brings anything into question, it’s the overall human worth of allowing such power to continue.
I’ll append the full discussion below, for the sake of context and the sempiternal archives, but, in brief, b-psycho was following up on his stated wish to see “Obama and Bush in court wearing matching handcuffs and jumpsuits.”
The problem that the “overall human worth” question gets to is that government on any level, not just the modern state, always implies investment of the power of life and death in authority, in Hobbes’ Leviathan. The “overall human worth” that b-psycho is questioning is in this sense overall human worth itself: If having Leviathans able to kill is wrong, then there is no political right, because concretely humanity as we know it is constituted by the wrong so understood.
Anarchism-pacifism – if it does not automatically, directly or indirectly, convert into its opposite – would be the negation of the political, and left-liberalism today tends to operate as the attempted politicization by a necessarily self-mystified anarchist-pacifist sensibility of its own anti-political essence. If there are adjustments or alterations to “the Barack Obama, Drone Commander” policy that deserve to be considered, they all will either fail the test of ideal anarcho-pacifist liberalism, or be revealed as not really alternative policies, but as alternatives to policy at all. In other words, basing opposition on an underlying disbelief in investing executive authority with the power of life and death becomes a political theater of the absurd, since there can be no engagement in politics that does not assent to the fundamental requirements of politics.
b-psycho, to his credit, is at least willing to confront the underlying issue. Many progressives, liberals, libertarians, and further-leftists react as though voting for Obama in 2008 meant imagining “something different,” and as if discovering only via the New York Times this week that it necessarily meant the “different killer,” not a different universe. They seem to think their criticism undermines or ought to undermine Obama or their fantasy-Obamism, but it rarely, or never, acknowledges the extent to which the drone policy in all of its horror is itself a reaction to and indirect consequence of previous rounds of entirely well-intentioned criticism of the same type, and represents a further, as ever two-sided, penetration of legalism and humanitarianism into the conduct of war, not some “unprecedented” departure from legality and humanity. In this sense the drone program is not a contradiction of progressivism: It is progressivism itself, in action.
If you want to know why the progressive intellectuals wailing and gnashing in twitterland end up talking mostly to each other, it’s that the world that they do not take seriously generally returns the favor.