Why the Pentagon hates Obama’s drone war

Micah Zenko writes: General Stanley McChrystal is speaking out against the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes, echoing previous warnings and clashing with the White House’s carefully cultivated narrative:

To the Daily Telegraph:

It’s very tempting for any country to have a clean, antiseptic approach, that you can use technology, but it’s not something that I think is going to be an effective strategy, unless it is part of a wider commitment.

To Reuters:

They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.

To journalist Trudy Rubin:

[Drones are] a very limited approach that gives the illusion you are making progress because you are doing something.

And to television anchor Candy Crowley:

It can lower the threshold for decision making to take action that at the receiving end, feels very different at the receiving end.

McChrystal offers a unique perspective on the debate surrounding drone strikes. Serving as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from 2003 to 2008, he restructured the secretive unit to capture or kill hundreds of suspected militants and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. During this time, he had the authority to deploy U.S. forces into Pakistan — without prior approval from the White House — in order to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. As commander of the international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan from June 2009 to July 2010, he significantly tightened the rules of engagement for airstrikes in populated areas, noting, “Air power contains the seeds of our own destruction.” (Full disclosure: McChrystal served on the advisory committee of my recent report on U.S. drone strikes, although that does not mean he agreed with my findings or recommendations.)

Although his candor is rare in his field, many of McChrystal’s concerns are increasingly shared by active-duty and retired military officials with whom I’ve spoken. The vast majority of these officers, who held a wide range of positions while in uniform, are deeply troubled by the Obama administration’s ongoing drone wars for five reasons. [Continue reading…]

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