Annals of Obama & national security (II): What are the politico-diplomatic consequences of the drone warfare era?
- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Did anyone notice the United States did a drone strike the other day in Somalia? I didn’t think so. Add that to other places where we are bombing: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
Back in the old days, air strikes were considered an act of war. But the Obama Administration sez no — and here I am beginning to change my mind. Maybe they are onto something. The drone strikes being conducted in those three countries are not being done to challenge those states, but to supplement the power of those states, to act when they cannot or will not. More importantly, these are precise strikes against certain individuals, making them more like police work than like classic military action. Police work involves small arms used precisely. Drones aren’t pistols, but firing one Hellfire at a Land Rover is more like a police action than it is like a large-scale military offensive with artillery barrages, armored columns, and infantry assaults. (Yes, I am shifting my position a bit from what I wrote recently about Libya.)
We all understand that drone aircraft have changed warfare, but I suspect they also are changing diplomacy and foreign relations. Drones, like cruise missiles before them, have made it much easier to use force internationally. But doing this does not mean we are at war.
There is a good dissertation to be done on the political and diplomatic implications of this new military technology. I know there have been a couple of books in recent years on this subject — can anyone highly recommend one?