That's an actual sentence from a very good ProPublica explainer about drones. How weird. I'm sure it would be extremely popular if other nations rained down death and destruction on American citizens from our airspace.
Anywho, the New York Times weighed in today with an editorial about President Obama and his extraordinary power over who lives or dies. It goes something like this:
The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.
In a recent speech, Mr. Brennan said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, not simply because they are members of Al Qaeda, and prefers to capture suspects alive. Those assurances are hardly binding, and even under Mr. Obama, scores of suspects have been killed but only one taken into American custody. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have far lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted.
In the way we conduct our so-called "war on terror," we make the same mistakes again and again. Mistake No. 1 is ordering the deaths of people whose names we don't even know and assuming that any males nearby are "probably up to no good" -- and pretending that this is moral. Mistake No. 2 is assuming that this is an effective way to curb terrorism.
On that point, I bring you what the Washington Post had to say:
But as in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. drone strikes have significantly weakened al-Qaeda’s capabilities, an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population.
The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network’s most active wing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
I've written this until I'm blue in the face, but here we go again. Fighting terrorism is not a zero-sum game. If your strategy is creating more terrorists than when you started, then maybe it's time for a different strategy.