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Saturday, July 23, 2016

More Proof That America’s Drone War Doesn’t Work

More Proof That America’s Drone War Doesn’t Work

by Paul R. Pillar
A recent study by Emily Manna about drone strikes and terrorism in Pakistan warrants attention as a useful contribution to discussion of the effectiveness of such strikes as a counterterrorism tool.
The issue of just how useful the firings of missiles from unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, are in killing suspected terrorists on the ground, has multiple dimensions. Larger legal and moral questions arise with this form of remote-control violence being inflicted in disparate places ranging across many international boundaries—especially in the absence of any well-defined and up-to-date congressional authorization for the overseas use of force.
A narrower question of effectiveness concerns how much the killing of individual members, including even leading members, leads to the weakening or demise of any existing terrorist group. The tactic is only one of several approaches toward trying to eliminate a terrorist group, and not necessarily one of the more effective ones. Groups with a well-developed internal structure, which also tend to be the more formidable and sophisticated groups, are adept at filling vacancies. Sometimes the replacement turns out to be more able than the leader who was bumped off. This was true when Israel’s killing of Hezbollah secretary general Abbas Musawi led to the succession of the more capable Hassan Nasrallah. It also was true when the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, cleared the way for the more adept Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to take over and to expand the group into what we now know as ISIS.

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