A former security adviser for Barack Obama now says the Pentagon's targeted drone program is counter-productive, is "encouraging a new arms race," and has killed far more civilians than has been acknowledged.
In an article for the January 2013 issue of the journal International Affairs, Michael Boyle, a La Salle University expert on counterterrorism who served as an adviser on the Obama campaign's counterterrorism expert group from July 2007-November 2008, writes that the Obama administration's increasing reliance on drone attacks is having "adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists," the Guardian reports.
Although Obama pledged to end the so-called 'War on Terror,' Boyle continues:
"Instead, he has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor … while President Bush issued a call to arms to defend 'civilisation' against the threat of terrorism, President Obama has waged his war on terror in the shadows, using drone strikes, special operations and sophisticated surveillance to fight a brutal covert war against al-Qaida and other Islamist networks."
Boyle argues that the administration has been "successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties" because it has reportedly begun counting all military-age men in the strike zone as militants unless the administration has clear evidence to the contrary, the Guardian reports. As a result, the standards the US uses to select targets has been "gradual(ly) loosening."
The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.
The use of drones by the US has increased dramatically during the Obama administration, with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimating that US forces have conducted 307 deadly drone strikes in Pakistan alone since Obama took office four years ago.
Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Initiative at the Brookings Institution says the US now has 7,000 drones operating and 12,000 more on the ground, while not a single new manned combat aircraft is under research or development at any western aerospace company.
Boyle argues for more transparency about the surging use of drones by the Obama administration, because, he says, Americans are "unaware of the scale of the drone program … and the destruction it has caused in their name."