They kill without warning, are comparatively cheap, risk no American lives, and produce triumphant headlines. Over the last three years, drone strikes have quietly become the Obama administration’s weapon of choice against terrorists.
Since taking office, President Barack Obama has unleashed five times as many drone strikes as George W. Bush authorized in his second term in the White House. He has transformed drone attacks from a rarely used tactic that killed dozens each year to a twice-weekly onslaught that killed more than 1,000 people in Pakistan in 2010. Last year, American drone strikes spread to Somalia and Libya as well.
In the wake of the troubled, trillion-dollar American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, drone strikes are a talisman in Washington. To cash-strapped officials, drones eliminate the United States’ enemies at little human, political, or financial cost.
The sweeping use of drone strikes in Pakistan, though, has created unprecedented anti-American sentiment in that country. While U.S. intelligence officials claim that only a handful of civilians have died in drone attacks, the vast majority of Pakistanis believe thousands have perished. Last year, the Pakistani government apparently blocked American drone strikes after tensions escalated between the two governments.