The Case for Drones
1. When Obama Embraced Drone Warfare
How, exactly, did drone warfare and targeted killing become key elements in America’s counterterrorism strategy? And why should we care about them as essential national-security tools for the future?
Barack Obama campaigned for his first presidential term on the platform of ending America’s wars. Obama voters and much of the rest of the world figured this promise referred not only to the conventional conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to what liberals considered the long and unnecessary national nightmare of the war on terror. It now seems clear he was misunderstood—though we don’t know yet whether the misunderstanding was by Obama’s design or due to changes that took place after he assumed office. Obama’s policy proved not to be “peace breaks out.” It was, rather, that America would wind down its two counterinsurgency, boots-on-the-ground wars and undertake a refocused effort against the terrorists who had set this all in motion. He framed it this way during the 2008 race. “If Pakistan cannot or will not take out al-Qaeda leadership when we have actionable intelligence about their whereabouts,” he said on the campaign trail, “we will act to protect the American people. There can be no safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists.” No safe havens—that has been Barack Obama’s strategic lodestar in the war on terror.
About the Author
Kenneth Anderson is a professor of international law at American University and a member of the Task Force on National Security and Law at the Hoover Institution, under whose auspices his new book, Speaking the Law, co-written with Benjamin Wittes, will be published this year. This is his first article for Commentary.