Are drones effective? Obama is certainly the drone-meister, deploying and utilising drones more than any other president. Of course technology has advanced at a greater pace too. But are they effective?
There’s no doubt that drone strikes can have horrific consequences. Beyond the disputed numbers of noncombatants killed, there are psychological consequences to consider as well. In the Senate hearing, Farea al-Muslimi, an American-educated Yemeni writer and activist, spoke eloquently of the heartbreak and fear that drones cause in Yemen. News reports from Pakistan suggest something similar: People are deeply afraid of drones. These perspectives matter greatly. But they only scratch at the surface of a much bigger problem with how the U.S. government uses drones. At a basic level, are they effective?
Gauging the effectiveness of drones is not simply a question of body counts. It is a larger evaluation of whether the terrorist threat is affected, whether the countries where drones are used are becoming more stable or less, and whether America’s ability to partner with other governments for future counterterrorism missions is improving or getting worse. The human factor, which Congress has focused on recently, is an important part of that evaluation, but it is only one part. In other words: Can we tally up all the costs and benefits of the drone war? Read more »