An interesting article argues that drones will remain a tool for presidents after the elections. He opens noting that the 3 November marks the 10th anniversary “of America’s Third War – the campaign of targeted killings in non-battlefield settings that has been a defining feature of post-9/11 American military policy as much as the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan”.
He goes on to bemoan the fact that “The war is conducted by both the CIA – covert and totally unacknowledged — and by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — described without any specificity as “direct action” by the White House. Whether the CIA or JSOC is the lead executive agency, the Third War is marked by the limited transparency and accountability of U.S. officials”. Yet by saying this he fails to understand that drones are not only necessary but an excellent way of projecting American power cheaply and effectively. As others have mentioned drones have many plus points but these far outweigh whatever few negatives there are.
He goes on to write that drones “had two simple goals: preventing another attack on the U.S. homeland and capturing or killing those al Qaeda operatives responsible. Bush administration officials warned ominously that its forward-leaning counterterrorism approach mandated preventive attacks against terrorist safe havens”. Judged by these factors, drones have been exceptionally successful.
He goes on to note that “surviving al Qaeda operatives simply went elsewhere, including just across the Durand Line into the tribal areas of Pakistan”, adding that strikes began in 2004 with drones becoming more involved as the years progressed, continuing to this day. There has been much whining from the Pakistani government about its sovereignty being violated, but with leaders as corrupt and incompentent as those in Pakistan, it is in US, and world, interests that America take these actions.
He then cites an incident in Yemen and calls implies that it was an assassination. Again however he misses the point, partly as a result of one of them being a US national and therefore committing an act of high treason, and secondly, the need for America to think more broadly about how it deals with the terrorist threat.
He does make the interesting point that “Since November 2002, there have been 400 more documented U.S. targeted killings in the non-battlefield settings of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines (where there was reportedly one). Although over 95 percent of all targeted killings have been conducted by CIAand JSOC drones, a small number have also been carried out by Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130 gunships”. He then argues that “an estimated 3,400 people have been killed — 13 percent of whom were civilians”. Yet, these figures are small and while every innocent death is a tragedy and everything must be done to reduce these deaths, the world is a dangerous place and drones are far more accurate than any ballistic missile ever could be and for that reason alone drones deserve to be supported.
He ends angrily “What was once considered an immediate response to an exceptional threat to the United States is now a permanent and institutionalized feature of U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps by November 3, 2022, policymakers and the American people will have noticed”. Even if they do it must be hoped that drones are here to stay, for the protection of all.