President Obama embraced drone strikes in his first term, and the targeted killing of suspected terrorists has come to define his presidency.
But lost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year.
In a long-awaited address on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will make his most ambitious attempt to date to lay out his justification for the strikes and what they have achieved. He may follow up on public promises, including one he made in his State of the Union speech in February to define a “legal architecture” for choosing targets, possibly shifting more strikes from the C.I.A. to the military; explain how he believes that presidents should be “reined in” in their exercise of lethal power; and take steps to make a program veiled in secrecy more transparent.
Previewing the speech last weekend, an administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity said Mr. Obama would also “review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay; and he will frame the future of our efforts against Al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents.” Some Obama supporters have urged him to use the occasion to announce that part of a 6,000-page Senate study of the C.I.A.’s former interrogation program will be declassified and made public.
Mr. Obama, who insisted early in his presidency on a personal role in many strike decisions, may also shed light on the declining use of drone strikes. Current and former officials say the reasons include a shrinking list of important Qaeda targets, a result of the success of past strikes, and transient factors ranging from bad weather to diplomatic strains. But more broadly, the decline may reflect a changing calculation of the long-term costs and benefits of targeted killings.
Obama administration officials have sometimes contrasted the drone program’s relative precision, economy and safety for Americans with the huge costs in lives and money of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over time, however, the costs of the drone strikes themselves have become more evident.
Reports of innocent civilians killed by drones — whether real or, as American officials often assert, exaggerated — have shaken the claims of precise targeting. The strikes have become a staple of Qaeda propaganda, cited to support the notion that the United States is at war with Islam. They have been described by convicted terrorists as a motivation for their crimes, including the failed attack on a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and the attempted car bombing of Times Square in 2010.
— The New York Times, “Debate Aside, Number of Drone Strikes Drops Sharply” (via inothernews)
Source: The New York Times
Journalism is not stenography. It isn’t nice. It often isn’t comfortable. And sometimes it isn’t right.
But it is necessary
The Borowitz Report: Obama Asks Staff to Start Cc’ing Him on Stuff
In a dramatic departure from existing White House procedures, President Obama requested today that his staff start cc’ing him on stuff.
Look, I know a lot of you think I’m really busy and you don’t want to bother me,” the President reportedly told his staff in an Oval Office meeting. “But cc me anyway. It’s good for me to keep up on what’s going on around here.”
—Andy Borowitz. For more: http://nyr.kr/12MlQYQ
- l: my ears are kind of pungent
Source: Rolling Stone