Blame Barack Obama if you like or George Bush (who began the drone program), even technology if you care to. But in the Islamic mind, it’s primarily America itself and the West follows as a byline. After all, do we operate drones against non-Muslims? I guess not.
The controversy is currently on innocents killed while pursuing targets, but it goes way beyond that. There is substantial evidence that the operation of drones, as well as the actual strikes, is militant Islam’s greatest recruiting agency. Numbers differ, but thousands (if not tens of thousands) join the militant cause as a result of drone programs. We may as well put up billboards, “Sign up Here to Defeat America.”
Congress diddles and flounders, investigates and takes no part in statecraft. That might require thoughtful consideration and we are too polarized for that. The question should be “does this work?” A follow-up would be “is it worth the cost in world opinion and terrorist recruitment to justify the gains paring back radical Muslim leadership?”
My feeling is that is doesn’t and isn’t, but I’m a writer, living comfortably and not responsible for wars on terror. I am (perhaps like you) more fully occupied with the hopes and ambitions of my own life. It’s comfortable to be white and well-off in the West, but one day they will come for us with our own weapons.
History is full of that. The Afghans we weaponized against Russia came at us there in our own war with precisely those weapons. Every nation from Israel to Saudi Arabia has used American financed weaponry against their neighbors. In the case of Egypt and Saudi, their own citizens are held in check under the gun and America is the world’s primary arms dealer.
Saudi arms itself with our stuff and yet 15 of the 19 World Trade Center attackers were Saudi citizens. The Iraq that Dick Cheney promised would “welcome us with flowers” now largely supports ISIS in its Sunni Muslim communities and the ‘experiment in democracy is coming unglued. The first ever democratically elected president in the 5,000 year history of Egypt was overthrown by its American supported military. Now 88 million Egyptians live under presidential decree (a soft word for dictatorship) and that ‘president’ was the former head of the military. The Middle East is a powder-keg and America keeps lighting fuses.
Weaponry is the gift that stabilizes allies, if you believe in 20th century warfare and we’re hip-deep in a 21st century where sovereign nations are on the slide. Last-century diplomacy (of which war is a part) convinced us ‘liberating’ Iraq would establish a democratic bastion in the Middle East and attacking Afghanistan would bring control to an out-of-control nation. Both nations are imploding and tribal power is he only law that exists.
Drones are simply another weapon that for the time being we have exclusive control over. They allow us to fight a war over there safely from here, but the costs are hardly worth it. Those living in drone-surveillance areas hear them and live in a state of suspended animation, fearful of every moment with good reason. Which wedding or which home will be struck without warning? The psychological pressure is unabated and who do they blame? America, of course.
Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo report from Sunday’s New York Times:
“About once a month, staff members of the congressional intelligence committees drive across the Potomac River to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., and watch videos of people being blown up.
“As part of the macabre ritual the staff members look at the footage of drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries and a sampling of the intelligence buttressing each strike, but not the internal C.I.A. cables discussing the attacks and their aftermath. The screenings have provided a veneer of congressional oversight and have led lawmakers to claim that the targeted killing program is subject to rigorous review, to defend it vigorously in public and to authorize its sizable budget each year.
“That unwavering support from Capitol Hill is but one reason the C.I.A.’s killing missions are embedded in American warfare and unlikely to change significantly despite President Obama’s announcement on Thursday that a drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, an American and an Italian. The program is under fire like never before, but the White House continues to champion it, and C.I.A. officers who built the program more than a decade ago — some of whom also led the C.I.A. detention program that used torture in secret prisons — have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks.”
Truth be known, we are most likely killing innocents at ten times the rate of terror suspects. There are plenty of Dick Cheney and John McCain-style war-hawks in Washington, but the American drone program is immoral, unconscionable and unsustainable.
Every American living abroad is signed on to that signature-strike when we show our passport at an airport or hotel. Immorality aside, think how comfortable that makes you on the street whether or not you agree with the killing of innocents in Africa, the Middle East or vast areas of Asia.
Where not all that long ago we were welcomed, the high-point of which was probably the Clinton years, we are now feared, despised and in the best cases looked upon with disbelief by friends. To put it in perspective, simply think of the American outrage over the single killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri. That kind of unrestrained power has now become American foreign policy.
Despite congressional support, trillions spent and thousands of soldiers lost, it hasn’t worked in the short-run and will not succeed in the long-run.