Last Thursday, the Obama Administration came forward with the news that a drone strike back in January killed an American and an Italian, along with the four militants who were holding them hostage. The American, Warren Weinstein, is the 8th American killed by the Obama Adminstration’s drone program. Of those eight, only 6 were even suspected of being part of a terrorist network.
As numerous reporters have noted, there’s hardly any transparency when it comes to how the CIA is carrying out these attacks. It would be one thing if the secrecy of these attacks served some practical purpose, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anywhere.
In Somalia and Yemen, our drone strikes have only compounded the instability. And in Pakistan, where the Obama Administration has given the CIA even greater leeway – and where Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto were killed – not even the most strident domestic opponents of the Islamic radicals think it’s working. Writing recently in the Globe and Mail, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani writes about the Obama Administration’s misguided belief that they can win the war on terror by dropping bombs from flying robots:
The fascination with drones reflects the desire of leaders to be able to fight wars without risking casualties to their own side. The Obama administration has preferred using unmanned aircraft, armed with cameras and missiles, in locating and eliminating terrorists over committing troops or even intelligence officers in the field. The death of hostages, coupled with the fact that terrorists continue to recruit and multiply despite drone strikes, points to the folly of that approach.
His piece gets at the heart of why drone warfare fails and why there’s so much official secrecy around it. Drones didn’t become a popular method of battling radical groups because of their effectiveness in war. They became the primary means of battling radical groups because of their effectiveness in selling us on war. The lack of transparency – and of dead Americans – keeps this disconnect alive and keeps public support for drone strikes at a much higher level. If Americans fully understood how this method of dealing with groups like Al Qaeda isn’t just a failure, but actually counterproductive, there might start to be some momentum to wind it down. But for now, there’s still a widespread belief that this method of waging the war or terror actually works. If you’re a drone manufacturer or a politician afraid to challenge the CIA, the less said about these failures the better.
More news items from the last two weeks…