If we want to curb terrorism in the United States, we must stop drone attacks in the Middle East.
It’s a sick myth that Islamic extremists attack the United States or other nations because they “hate our freedom.” They attack us for our foreign policy. In 2006, the United States National Intelligence Estimate reported that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq made the problem of terrorism worse by creating a new generation of terrorists. And since then, top ranking military and counter-terrorism authorities such as General Stanley McChrystal, General Mike Flynn and George W. Bush’s counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke say that drone strikes in particular are creating more terrorists than they’re killing. If we want to stop terrorist attacks, we should stop the barbaric blind bombings that are fueling radicalization.
“The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates,” Gen. McChrystal, who led the US counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, said in 2013. “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Gen. Flynn, who until recently was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and has become a harsh critic of President Obama’s strategy in the Middle East, has said, “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Flynn, who has actually backs a more muscular military approach, doesn’t think it should include drones.
Clarke has said that when we use unmanned drones to drop bombs which, no matter how hard we try otherwise, inevitably kill innocent people:
[Y]ou cause enemies for the United States that will last for generations. All of these innocent people that you kill have brothers and sisters and tribe—tribal relations. Many of them were not opposed to the United States prior to some one of their friends or relatives being killed. And then, sometimes, they cross over, not only to being opposed to the United States, but by being willing to pick up arms and become a terrorist against the United States. So you may actually be creating terrorists, rather than eliminating them,
In fact, in the wake of the ISIL-linked terrorist attacks in Paris, four whistleblowers in the United States Air Force wrote an open letter to the Obama Administration calling for an end to drone strikes. The authors, all of whom had operational experience with drone strikes, wrote that such attacks “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool.” They say that the killing of innocent civilians by American drones is one of most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
It’s worth noting here that counter-terrorism experts with whom I’ve spoken have said that the sort of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies proposed by several Republican presidential candidates also helps inflame and incite terrorism. So we should also stop that immediately, not just as a matter of upholding our national moral and legal values but because it’s strategically destructive. Yet Republican and Democratic politicians appear fairly united on continuing drone strikes and, if anything, disagree about how much to increase their intensity. Experienced, knowledgeable military advisors have said that drone strikes create more terrorists than they kill. So what possible reason do we have for continuing them?
We know that our reactionary, militarily aggressive impulses got us into this situation. Although arguably complex in origin, it’s unarguable that the failed US invasion and occupation of Iraq helped create ISIS. And now in the wake of the San Bernadino attack that has rightfully shaken our nation to its core, our reactionary, militarily aggressive impulses may once again make matters worse. Continuing let alone expanding American drone strikes in the Middle East will continue to create more terrorists than we kill.
Unmanned drone strikes are inhumane. They are also stupid and self-defeating.