Recent polling finds a plurality in support of continuing the policy of hunting down our enemies with drones. The results are intriguing. They come in the wake of the US government acknowledging one of the most high profile screw-ups ever in the controversial drone program. Last month, the president admitted that hostages, including a US citizen, had been inadvertently killed in a drone strike.
Why Americans remain so supportive of drone operations is a bit of a head scratcher. On the one hand, they are fearsome weapons. Americans are also right to wave off criticism that these airborne attacks are illegitimate. Condemnations are just another form of “lawfare,” clothing political opposition with legalistic sounding arguments. Say what you want about drones — but they are perfectly legal.
On the other, the president’s “drone strategy” has failed. Islamists terrorist groups control far more ground today than when president Obama took office. The number of attacks aimed at the US homeland is increasing. Last month, three plots were uncovered in 17 days.
Drone strikes are a “tactic,” a way to deal with a particular target. They are not a way to win a war. Drones are no more an answer to ending al Qaeda than a tank was to winning World War II. Americans are right to vote up drones. Strikes make sense when done right. But Obama’s war on terrorism, that is another matter. The president gets two thumbs down.