The list of former U.S. officials who believe drone strikes create more enemies than they eliminate juts got a little bit longer.
“Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians,” writes Nabeel Khoury, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen from 2004 to 2007. “Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones.”
This is an old trope for those of us who have been criticizing the drone war for years. But the notion that it creates blowback is gaining in popularity of late. CNN, for example, just ran this segment, entitled “In Swat Valley, U.S. drone strikes radicalizing a new generation.”
Another recent headline-grabber on this issue happened just last week when Malala Yousafzai said she told Obama, “that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”
And, as I said, Khoury joins a long list of U.S. officials who hold this point of view. “Drones are a weapon of terror in many ways, and the kind of hostility this is going to breed may not be worth the counter-terrorism gains,” says Barbara Bodine, who was U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 1997 to 2001.
Robert Grenier, who headed the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 2004 to 2006 and was previously a CIA station chief in Pakistan, said last year that, “We have been seduced by [drones] and the unintended consequences of our actions are going to outweigh the intended consequences.”
“We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield,” Grenier added. “We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
“U.S. involvement is far more than ever in Yemen. We have no evidence that all those being killed are terrorists,” Abdul Salam Mohammed, director of Abaad Strategic Center, told CNN last year. “With every U.S. attack that is conducted in Yemen al Qaeda is only growing in power and we have to ask ourselves why that is happening.”
Add to all this the devastating reports from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week detailing the human and civilian costs of the drone war and questioning its legality, and it’s clear there is an emerging opposition to the gratuitous use of drones that has prevailed in Obama’s tenure thus far.