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Is Obama Overusing Drones?

President Obama zapped another bad guy the other day, incinerating Yemen-based al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in the latest successful drone attack.

I give Obama credit for his persistent effort against al Qaeda. It’s one of the important things he said he was going to do – focus on fighting terrorism – and has carried through with.¬†Obama has stepped up the use of drone attacks and killed scores of al Qaeda operatives and leaders, inflicting heavy damage on the organization at minimal cost to the United States in lives.

But it’s worth asking if some of the measures he is taking, while having short term success, are harming the effort in the long run.

We need not just to kill these people. We need to know what they know. The problem is that, under Obama, that’s not easy to do anymore.

In a first-rate piece in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday titled “What Could We Have Learned From Alwaki?”, Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey notes that Obama has eviscerated our ability to extract information from our enemies by eliminating the harsh techniques used under Bush. Information that saved many lives.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is probably the most famous but certainly not the only captured terrorist to have broken following experience with these harsh techniques. Indeed the mere availability of that program caused at least one captured al Qaeda operative to cooperate once he learned he was in CIA custody, even though he didn’t know precisely what the harsh techniques entailed.

President Obama abolished that program within 48 hours of taking office and replaced it with no classified program. Instead he announced to the world, and to our enemies, that henceforth all interrogations carried out by anyone acting under the authority of the United States would be limited to the techniques set forth in the Army Field Manual, a handbook meant to be suitable to the most raw recruit acting in the field without supervision. The Army Field Manual has been available on the Internet for years and is regularly used by terrorist groups for training in resistance to interrogation.

This could be prompting Obama to kill terrorists them rather than capture them. And no matter the danger, al Qaeda leaders who have been offed will quickly be replaced. The lure of all those heavenly virgins – al-Alwaki was arrested twice in the United States during the 1990s for soliciting prostitutes – is just too strong.

Further, the emphasis on trying terrorists we do catch in civilian court limits the nasty kinds of things interrogators might want to do to get them to sing.

Drawing down in Afghanistan without defeating the Taliban and removing too many troops from Iraq, which Obama is set on doing, will deprive the United States of its ability to collect the intelligence needed to find al Qaeda killers. Even the drone successes are likely to taper off as our presence in the area declines too precipitously.

Drones are consistent with the antiseptic way Obama likes to wage war – driving from the backseat and handing off to others as quickly as possible. But we are in a long term struggle with Islamists that won’t end soon. We’re not going to just be able to focus on setting up windmill farms, as Obama would like.

We need to do the dirty work of apprehending these characters and making them talk. Deprive them of sleep, so that we might sleep better at night.

14 thoughts on “Is Obama Overusing Drones?”

  1. They have demonstrated the propensity to kill rather than capture. If they captured, where would they put them? He vowed to close Guantanamo…so, much easier to waste them. Can you imagine the intel we could have gotten out of Osama? The Seals were in his bedroom! They could have subdued him and on the chopper in 5 mins. But, under this administration, they had orders to shoot on sight I would bet.

    1. Just2old-
      What citizenship did Osama hold?
      And did you know that Al-Awlaki was a US CITIZEN!?!?
      So THAT is the implication here- not about getting intel from Osama.
      It is ABOUT the president ASSASSINATING a US Citizen, with no trial, no charges, no nothing! And no one seems to care.
      This is the death of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
      WAKE UP!!!

  2. I think he likes to pretend that with a drone HE isn’t so responsible. It’s just a machine, opps, so sorry we killed the guy. With such high up bad guys we could be getting information from them. But with the current ROE it would take a lifetime of interrogation.

  3. That article is spot on brilliant and hits every point about Obama and war and terrorist! No he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty so to speak. I do
    however think UBL should have been shot I think those under him do the
    heavy lifting and he would have become a martyr and a rally point for the others. But we do need to get intel from the others and I don’t care if they
    are cold, wet or sleepy. Gitmo is serving it’s purpose and he still uses the
    Rendition program and water boarding is most likely a minor menu option
    for the countries used in this program. We need knowledge and to let our
    men and women fight without one hand tied behind their backs. It’s easy
    to sit and watch a drone kill someone from the comfort of the WH he has
    no concept of the war on the battlefield. He doesn’t want to know.

    1. Sadly, our intelligence or lack there of or non-response to intell led to the deaths of the courageous Seals, who found Bin Laden, and many other of our finest soldiers when their Helicopter was shot down in retailation by al Qaeda terrorists.

      Our enemies are determined to fight “to win” on every front, expand the War Zones, infiltrate our military at every level, disrupt citizens’ lives by taking over and moving into communities, build mosques, enroll in/teach at college campuses, and govern at every level of government even in the courts!

      Muslims believe that someday, the entire World will be subjects of Islam as they are. Fundamentalists are actively involved in war and terrorists acts, while less active Muslims quietly infiltrate the lives of and deceive “uninformed” citizens. From very early childhood, Muslims are taught to hate Christians and Jews and apostates.

      Many of the World leaders, along with USA leaders, have become “useful fools” for achieving the goals of terrorists around the globe. Whenever I hear people saying that “Muslims have a right to build their mosques anywhere”, I know that they would deny any other group to build a school that teaches “overthrowing the government” which is EXACTLY what is taught in the over 2500 mosques built in North America in the last 20 years!

      The Wars going on now in the Middle East could have been over long ago, if our military leaders were told “To WIN the WAR”! GITMO would be unnecessary and save Americans multi-millions of $’s keeping the murderers comfortable while they refuse to TALK thanks to our POTUS and AG Holder!

  4. Are you actually asking people to ponder the depths of such a question? Those people who rallied and condemned the Bush administration for capturing and water boarding a couple of terrorists versus flying a drone over a car and dropping a bomb on the car killing everyone in the car including the terrorist? You want to see them struggle with a moral zen riddle like that? You should be ashamed of yourself; you’d probably rearrange the furniture in the home of a blind person. No wonder I love your blog.

  5. San Antonio is having one of those hippy throwback protests and one of the young white female college students got her minute of fame radio interview today. Not sure what she was protesting but she mentioned that a guy from the Secret Service stopped by their gathering, gave them a thumbs up, and told them “thanks for what you’re doing”.

    Is it common for Secret Service agents to come up to strange crowds and identify themselves like that? Thought the Secret Service was non-political too. Been to a few Tea party rallys and never had an SS agent thank us. I feel left out….

  6. I have no regrets over Al-Alwaki. He was the primary agent for recruiting English speaking terrorist. He had an online magazine aimed at the potential jihadist. And as an American citizen he was the supreme traitor.

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