Defense, intelligence experts question U.S. drone policy
WASHINGTON — Targeted drone strikes have become a centerpiece of the Obama administration's counterterrorism policy, but a new report issued by a bipartisan panel of former intelligence and Defense officials has concluded the approach constitutes a “slippery slope” toward a state of never-ending war.
The 81-page report, released by the Stimson Center on Thursday, points to the fact that the Obama administration has yet to conduct any “strategic analysis” on the cost-benefit of continued drone strikes in places such as Yemen and Pakistan.
“A serious counterterrorism strategy needs to consider carefully, and constantly reassess the balance between kinetic action and other counterterrorism tools, and the potential unintended consequences of increased reliance on lethal UAV's,” the report concludes, using the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
The panel included retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, a former commander of U.S. Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University, as well as a slew of other former senior military and CIA officials.
While the report is mostly critical of the Obama admiration's drone strategy, it goes on to dispel some of the myths surrounding the use of drones. The report notes that drones are no cheaper than manned aircraft and do not cause the high number of civilian casualties that some have alleged.
“UAV technologies, in fact, enable greater precision in targeting than most other common means of warfare,” the report reads.
Among critics, drones are seen as having severed pilots from actual battlefield conditions, and even some within the military see drone pilots as “glorified video game players.” Yet the report disputes that notion, noting that drone pilots are prone to post-traumatic stress as a result of continuous exposure to their targets and the ability to survey the damage inflicted after strikes.
“They may watch their targets for weeks or even months, seeing them go about the routines of daily life, before one day watching on screen as they are obliterated,” the report says.
The report makes clear that the consequences of widespread drone use can ripple through civilian communities, which must grow accustomed to the steady hum of aircraft above them.
“The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, says in the report.
While the report notes that President Obama acknowledged many of the same concerns cited by the panel in his May 2013 speech at National Defense University, it goes on to suggest that America's drone program requires both added transparency and oversight. Strikes should be assessed to ensure that they “are having a positive effect on U.S. national security and not trading short-term gains for more negative longer-term strategic consequences,” the report says.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Georgia prosecutor Yates tapped for No. 2 post in Justice Department
- Police: NYC cop killer invited people to watch shooting
- Coal mines near record low in worker deaths
- New York farmers lament lost opportunity for natural gas riches with fracking ban
- NYPD: Cop ambush killer told passers-by to watch
- Veteran NBC newsman Brokaw says his cancer is in remission
- New York City subways slowly upgrading from 1930s-era technology
- Arizona immigrants OK’d to apply for driver’s licenses
- Florida officer slain; 1 charged
- Tent city sprouts in shadow of downtown Detroit
- IBM’s Watson supercomputing system to be applied to PTSD