Analysis: How Obama Went From Reluctant Warrior To Drone Champion



When it comes to questions of war and peace, it often seems as if there are two Barack Obamas.

There’s the president who has anguished, often publicly, over the morality of killing and the costs of combat. “No matter how justified, war promises human tragedy,” Obama said just days after his 2009 decision to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Analysis: How Obama Went From Reluctant Warrior To Drone Champion

Barack Obama has been uneasy with large-scale deployments of US troops.

Then there’s the president who, over the last seven years, has sanctioned the largest targeted killing campaign in American history. “There isn’t a president who’s taken more terrorists off the field than me,” he said earlier this spring. A few weeks later, he backed up the boast at the U.S. Air Force Academy, reading off the names of seven al-Qaida and Islamic State leaders killed on his watch.

The White House’s report on its drone program and a separate executive order released Friday show how Obama has sought to untangle these contradictions. For Obama, the low number of civilian deaths detailed in the report – fewer than 116 in seven years of strikes – amounts to a vindication of the drone program’s effectiveness as a counter terrorism tool.

The report offers no detail on the times or locations of the strikes – an omission that even before its release led critics of the program to dismiss the report as insufficient. Nor does it attempt to answer the broader criticism that the anger and resentment generated by the strikes in places such as Pakistan and Yemen have helped feed the ranks of terrorist groups.

The report, however, does reflect an increasingly unshakable conviction in the White House that the drone strikes have helped safeguard American lives and shift the country off an all-consuming war footing.

“This is a tool that this administration and this president has used frequently in a way that has had a devastating impact on the ability of terrorists to establish a safe haven and use the safety of that safe haven to plot against the us and our interests,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “This is a powerful tool.”

The report on casualties and the executive order are designed to ensure that the drone program continues after Obama leaves office.

Since the first days of his presidency, Obama has been uneasy with large-scale deployments of U.S. troops. He has questioned the claims of his generals who promised that with enough troops and time they could not only defeat militants but also heal fractured societies such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And he has fretted about the costs of such deployments in American lives and worried about the destruction that such troops inevitably wreak overseas on civilians.

Drones seemed to offer Obama a better, cleaner and less destructive way of waging war. During Obama’s time in the White House, unmanned aircraft have grown increasingly more sophisticated. They can stay over their targets longer,collect more intelligence and carry bigger payloads than the unmanned planes that were flying when Obama was first elected.

In 2013, Obama announced new rules to govern the use of this deadly new technology. Obama’s goal was to transition the United States to a new, more discriminating and humane form of warfare in which no strikes would be carried out unless there was a “near certainty” that civilians would not be injured or killed.

The White House reiterated that standard Friday and said its “rigorous standards and procedures” have “resulted in extraordinarily precise targeting.”

Even before Friday’s report, Obama had been forced to acknowledge a growing number of mistakes, including the deaths of two Western hostages – Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian – in a strike on an al-Qaida compound in Pakistan last year.

Source From : ndtv.com

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