Obama Frames Covert Drone War As Necessary Evil


The rules will also ’impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists’.

There was some dispute about whether the Presidential Policy Guidance would prevent much-criticised attacks on groups of men based on their patterns of behaviour – so-called ‘signature strikes.’ The line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> in front of an invited audience at the National Defense University in Washington DC, Obama made an impassioned defence of the US targeted killing programme, insisting that it was both effective and legal. But he admitted that this may not be enough:

‘To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.  For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it,’ he said.

He addressed head-on controversies surrounding civilian casualties. Acknowledging that there was a ‘wide gap’ between US and non-governmental assessments, he bluntly conceded that civilians have died in US strikes. Obama said that for himself and ‘those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live’.

He declared: ‘before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.’

But he also insisted that civilian deaths were sometimes a necessary risk. ‘As Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold.’

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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‘Boots on the ground’
line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi”>This article was amended on May 24 to take note of ambiguities regarding the possible abandonment of ‘signature strikes.’

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