Tuesday, February 9, 2010


As President Obama continues escalation of the "Predator Wars" and seeks to increase purchases of drone technology in the fight against terrorism, Marc Thiessen of Foreign Policy argues that Obama's devotion to this program is both irresponsible and costly for American security interests.

Sure, drone attacks have proven successful in killing senior al Qaeda leaders throughout the world. And the mere use of these planes carries an undeniable psychological impact on terrorist leaders and their recruits. But Obama chose to rely more heavily on drone warfare at the very moment he stripped the CIA of its ability to capture and question these leaders. By tipping the scales of the security-values continuum too far towards values, Obama has in fact sacrificed both - despite their precision, drones also kill scores of innocent civilians while also eliminating the terrorists best-placed to divulge information about future attacks and the would-be attackers.

So while Obama appears tough on terror by killing key leaders, his lopsided approach is potentially more damaging than would be implementing a wise combination of drone attacks coupled with human intelligence-gathering efforts. As one high-ranking CIA official was quoted in the FP piece: "You can't kill them all, and you don't want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew."

As Obama's presidency enters its second year, Americans and the world are awaiting delivery of the changes he promised. Discontentment with the Obama presidency has been mounting as evaluations of his early policies begin filtering in - among those policies, the troubling consequences of a continued over-reliance on drones.

Secretary Clinton insisted that the president's first year was focused on laying the groundwork for change. But the well-connected and highly-regarded Edward Luce at FT and Steve Clemons of Washington Note (among others) contend, based on close access to the White House players, that Obama's excessively narrow inner circle and its unwillingness to listen seriously to outsiders (including Obama's cabinet) has led the president on a failing course.

Will Obama show courage and honestly appraise his dwindling trajectory and make the staffing shake-ups necessary to inject innovative reflection on these most contentious policy frontiers?

- Amy Greene