WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.
The group found that more than a decade into the era of armed drones, the American government has yet to carry out a thorough analysis of whether the costs of routine secret killing operations outweigh the benefits. The report urges the administration to conduct such an analysis and to give a public accounting of both militants and civilians killed in drone strikes.
This is quite amazing, and of course was buried on page 11 of the NYT. First check out just who all made up this illustrious panel:
The panel includes a number of former Pentagon and C.I.A. officials and is jointly led by retired General John P. Abizaid, the former head of United States Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a fellow at the New America Foundation and a law professor at Georgetown University. Other members of the group are Philip Mudd, a former deputy director of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center; Jeffrey Smith, who served as the C.I.A.’s general counsel during the Clinton administration; and John B. Bellinger III, the legal adviser to the National Security Council and the State Department during the administration of George W. Bush.
Don’t seem to be any hippy-dippy lib types there. So what does this panel say? Basically that since both the Bush II and Obama administrations refused to release any hard numbers behind these assassination campaigns we will probably never know whether or not they actually did anything. You know, like stop al-Quaeda in its various forms instead of causing them to spread all around the Middle East, picking up legions of followers who are put off by America’s heavy-handed use of force to blow up terrorist-related activities such as wedding parties. And while they say that this technology doesn’t produce a wave of video-game zombies pulling the triggers on “bug splats,” they do say this:
In fact, the report said, because drone pilots watch their targets sometimes for days and weeks before pulling the trigger — and then see them blown up on a high-resolution video screen — they are more susceptible to post-traumatic stress than pilots of manned aircraft.
The panel also calls out the Obama administration for refusing to release any legal rationale (until this week) behind these types of attacks, saying that now the US would have no recourse if another country (they use Russia) did the same thing.
Will this change anything? Given the Obama administration’s seeming inability to respond to any outside criticism, probably not. But this panel is made up of some very heavy hitters, so perhaps there is hope after all.