go to top

Strategic Horizons: Amid Debate, U.S. Shares Drone Approach With Partners

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

While Americans debate when and where the United States should use drones to strike at insurgents and terrorists who cannot be reached by other means, they may be overlooking an important trend: the move to supply a targeted killing capability to allied nations. This began when the Bush administration decided to provide technology and advice to help the government of Colombia kill the leaders of its narco-insurgency. Today, the U.S. military is also helping the armed forces of Yemen field systems for the targeted killing of anti-government extremists associated with al-Qaida. This is the beginning of a trend, as more states will field such capabilities, including drones, with or without American help.

President Barack Obama explained the rationale of America’s drone strategy during a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University in Washington:

Despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al-Qaida and its affiliates try to gain foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. . . . In some of these places—such as parts of Somalia and Yemen—the state only has the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. And it’s also not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to capture every terrorist. . . . So it is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al-Qaida and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones.

Although the technology used in drone strikes may be new, using limited force to strike terrorists, insurgents, bandits, pirates or raiders beyond the limits of civilization is not. Nations and empires have launched what are called “spoiling attacks” for most of recorded history. Drone strikes are simply the latest method. But is it a good idea? ...

Want to Read the Rest?
Login or Subscribe Today.
Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts. Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 9,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

YES, I want to subscribe now.