Since America's drone wars began 10 years ago, the Bush and Obama administrations have struggled to manage public knowledge of such operations, maintaining the myth that the strikes are "covert." Despite both administrations' best efforts, however, a great deal of information is available that describes U.S. policies on drone strikes -- and much of it is troubling.
Drones, Cyber and Covert Ops: America's Invisible Wars
The past decade has seen a tremendous shift in the application of American military force, with boot-heavy invasions increasingly replaced by invisible instruments of power. But though seemingly effective in targeting high-value targets and reducing the financial burden of the war against terror, the Obama administration’s so-called ghost wars have raised troubling questions about accountability and oversight, while setting dangerous precedents for both the use of new technologies and the norms of warfare. Micah Zenko, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Michael A. Cohen, Steven Metz and Charli Carpenter examine America’s invisible wars.
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President Barack Obama abandoned his predecessor's penchant for targeting states to counter nonstate actors, instead "symmetricizing" the highly asymmetrical and absurdly expensive Bush Doctrine through an aggressive campaign of targeted assassinations via drones and special operations. It amounts to the same whack-a-mole tactics, just without the follow-on responsibilities or costs.
America's drone wars are reflective of the current state of congressional oversight of the executive branch on national security issues: The executive branch stonewalls to avoid oversight, and Congress does little to demand that its constitutional prerogatives are respected. As a result, the opportunities for the expansion of executive power are becoming more pronounced -- and could get worse.
In the months after the attacks of Sept. 11, the United States struggled to understand the new world it faced and to redirect its security strategy away from "rogue states" relying on conventional military power to the ambiguous terrorist threat. Some components of the new strategy, such as augmented homeland security, fell easily into place. How to use U.S. military power in an offensive way against terrorism was not so clear.
Much digital ink has been spilled over how cyber and unmanned technologies are changing the nature of war, allowing it to be fought more secretly, more subversively and with greater discretion. In fact, it is precisely the increasing visibility of ordinary warfare due to communications technology that is driving U.S. efforts to redefine the rules of engagement.