Predator drones have been successful in killing more than a dozen al-Qaida and/or Taliban honchos. That is a good thing. Drones are working.
However, one person reportedly is standing in the way of expanded missile strikes — and it is none other than President Barack Obama.
“The president has sided with political and diplomatic advisers who argue that widening the scope of the drone attacks would be risky and unwise” (in other words — successful), according to a story in Newsweek attributing the information to five administration officials.
This is the same kind of counter-intuitive, politically correct nonsense that set the stage for the Fort Hood disaster.
The RQ-1 Predator drone is the primary unmanned aerial vehicle for offensive operations in Afghanistan and those nefarious adjoining Pakistani tribal areas. The Predator is both cool and effective. It can fly 400 nautical miles to a target; hang around snooping overhead for 14 hours, then return.
Obama reportedly is concerned that firing missiles into urban areas “would greatly increase the risk of civilian casualties.” However, such an excuse ignores the potential corollary that the perceived threat to civilians actually could cause the indigenous populations to refuse to support the drone magnets and deny access to refuges for the bad guys.
The administration also supposedly is afraid that drone attacks would draw protests from Pakistan. However, these are the same Pakistani politicians and military leaders who have balked at solving the problem themselves, whereas drones have been knocking off bad guys regularly.
Pakistani dissent has been quiet about the drone attacks so far. Most of the drone activity is out in the boondocks, keeping them below the protesters' radar, confined to the country's out-of-sight border region.
I’m confused. To date, Obama has made more aggressive use of drones than Bush did. There were 43 drone attacks between January and October, more than the total of 34 in all of 2008, President Bush’s last full year in office. Drones are doing the job, so why park them? Frankly, given all the flak the administration has taken, it is odd that it doesn't claim bragging rights for the Predator successes.
The White House apparently has found Pakistan's recent military efforts to root out militants along the Afghan border so encouraging that it supposedly doesn’t want to risk that cooperation. However, there hasn’t been any Pakistan posturing about the boondocks drones, so why unilaterally eliminate an effective tool without even protestations?
Hey, here’s a thought: How about partnering with the Pakistanis to complement their reported efforts to crack down?
Deja vu! Hell-o? Once upon a time we were engaged in a counterinsurgency war in Southeast Asia. It was called Vietnam, and even Sen. John Kerry was there. Chairborne Foggy Bottom wonks and spitless politicians decided that Laos and Cambodia were off limits.
Despite the stark reality that Viet Cong and NVA soldiers routinely used the "safe havens" of the border countries to avoid U.S. forces, despite the official policy on avoiding the safe havens, MACV-SOG actually did engage in covert operations in Laos and Cambodia with considerable success while clinging to the fiction of plausible deniability. Both the CIA and Studies and Observation Group have been excoriated for doing outstanding work under insane rules of engagement. Allowing an enemy a safe haven is as dumb as announcing to the enemy when you are leaving.
The internal debate about the drone program reportedly has been going on for nearly a year. A former senior intelligence official says that, within days of Obama's inauguration, he and his top aides began talking about actually “expanding the operation from a relatively limited area along the AfPak border to a broader range of targets.” Attaboy!
So, does the administration support or oppose the "drone surge"? Obama supposedly has not closed the door on wider drone attacks. However, he also hasn’t kicked it open. In what has become classic Obama style, the talking continues ad nauseum.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently, “These programs are expensive, but they are extraordinarily effective and extraordinarily value-added.”
Gen. David Petraeus has said that the main goal of a counterinsurgency operation is to win over the human terrain: the local population. "The U.S. wants to make use of its best weapons.” And we have. “So all of that . . . argues against the idea that you would deny yourself those very effective platforms, particularly when it comes to the most senior leaders of organizations that are trying to carry out attacks in our homeland,” said the Central Command chief.
So why are they still talking about talking about whether to continue to deploy effective killing machines?
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