by Kenneth Anderson, Benjamin Wittes
February 04, 2014
Since the introduction of weaponized drones as a tool of counterterrorism by the Bush administration not long after 9/11, and especially since their use was ramped up dramatically by the Obama administration, their strategic meaning and value has been sharply debated. The answers vary wildly and often run to extremes, starting with the question of whether they constitute something “new” in armed conflict. Particularly for the US military, “remotely piloted air vehicles” (a much more accurate term than “drones”) are just another air platform. Yet, drones represent genuinely something new in the conduct of counterterrorism globally, an offensive, raiding capability along with a persisting intelligence gathering capability. They are a necessary capability, a game-changing capability, but not a sufficient one. Drones have to be integrated with strategies for denying territory and haven, particularly whole political territories, to jihadist insurgents and their transnational terrorist wings.