It is certainly not be what he hoped or intended, but one of President
Mr. Obama is not the first to use drones to strike enemy targets, but the 300 attacks that have happened on his watch are six times the number carried out under President
Civil libertarians and activists on the left see the use of missile-firing drones to target and take out suspected terrorists as a threat to the rule of law. They are particularly concerned that American citizens, such as
Opponents of the drone attacks are making a principled point. A government free to kill citizens at will is truly the worst kind of Big Government nightmare. But few of the usual anti-government folks on the right are concerned about the drone hits. They consider the remote control killing of al-Qaida operatives as completely justified, the equivalent of doing battle in a declared war, and any American who has joined the other side is merely getting what he deserves.
About 80 percent of Americans agree with that view, and plenty of them are liberals and Democrats. Many see drone attacks as an improvement over commando raids and bombing runs. Drones do not put American soldiers directly at risk, and they are far more precise than big bombs dropped from the sky, thus minimizing the collateral deaths of innocent bystanders. Those are pretty good debating points -- probably winning points.
It is easy to see how this will play out. Concerned parties in
A wise president will know, however, that there will be blowback. Drones may be precise, but intelligence agencies are fallible. There will be mistakes that lead to the death of innocent people and those who survive will have good reason to hate America. The question may be, can we kill terrorists as fast as we create them? In some parts of the world, the symbol of America is no longer the
A wise president will also anticipate the day when this technologically marvelous weapon is turned against us. A decade ago, the United States had a near monopoly on drones; now they are in the hands of dozens of countries. It is likely that some enterprising terrorist is, even now, thinking there is no reason to pack a bomb in the underpants of some aspiring martyr when it would be simpler to get hold of a cheap hobbyist's drone, wire it up with explosives and send it on a short flight to the nearest airport.
This genie is out of the bottle. Drones are in our world to stay. Presidents, both wise and foolish, will employ them -- probably too easily and often -- and America's enemies will find a way to reciprocate.