Skipping Out on the Bill: Obama’s Cost-Free Drone Wars

Skipping Out on the Bill: Obama’s Cost-Free Drone Wars

Thanks to the Obama administration’s aggressive use of classified leaks to the press, we are encouraged to believe that President Barack Obama has engineered a revolutionary shift in both America’s geopolitical priorities and our military means of pursuing those ends. As re-election sales jobs go, it presses lukewarm-button issues, but it does so ably. But since foreign policy has never been the president’s focus, we should in turn recognize these maneuvers for what they truly are: an accommodation with inescapable domestic realities, one that at best postpones and at worst sabotages America’s needed geostrategic adjustment to a world co-managed with China and India.

Those domestic realities center on the fact that the Great Recession has finally reached Washington, meaning we collectively head into another bitter stretch of cost-cutting politics not seen since the end of the Cold War. Obama came into office looking to rebuild the American nation, and that required a certain withdrawal from global obligations. But since a Democratic president seeking re-election cannot abide the charge of being “soft of defense,” Obama’s ambition required that he pursue this foreign-to-domestic realignment in a manner that would disable such Republican charges.

Having quickly wrapped up America’s engagement in Iraq and now doing the same with Afghanistan, Obama abandoned his predecessor’s penchant for targeting states to counter threats posed by nonstate actors. Instead, he “symmetricized” the highly asymmetrical, and therefore absurdly expensive, Bush Doctrine through an unprecedentedly aggressive campaign of targeted assassinations via drones and special operations. It amounts to the same whack-a-mole tactics that alienate the locals; it just employs a far smaller hammer.

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