Officials often portray the global expansion of deadly drone strikes as an unequivocal success. But are we really accounting for all the consequences?
A series of articles have been published recently about the extent and, in some cases, failures of the drone program so famously expanded under President Obama's watch. The first, a blockbuster article by the Washington Post's Greg Miller, brings to light some truly worrying aspects of a policy that seems to have taken on a life of its own (emphasis mine):
In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don't match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives...
Obama himself was "oddly passive in this world," the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.
In other words, Jaffe is describing a system in which a decentralized apparatus carries out summary executions of people we're assured are bad and who are sometimes U.S. citizens, and the president knows about this but chooses not to exercise oversight or control of the process.
The upside to this system of drones, administration officials insist, is that al Qaeda has been crippled, and that it has created an intense strain on the ability of terrorists to carry out plots. And this is undoubtedly true -- the drone war has achieved its immediate purpose of thwacking bad people. But do we really understand the true cost of this form of warfare?