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92 Foreign Aff. 44 (2013)
Why Drones Fail: When Tactics Drive Strategy

handle is hein.journals/fora92 and id is 860 raw text is: Why Drones Fail
When Tactics Drive Strategy
Audrey Kurth Cronin
The war-weary United States, for which the phrase boots on
the ground has become politically toxic, prefers to eliminate
its terrorist foes from the skies. The tool of choice: unmanned
aerial vehicles, also known as drones. In Pakistan, Somalia, and
Yemen-often far away from any battlefield where American troops
are engaged-Washington has responded to budding threats with
targeted killings.
Like any other weapon, armed drones can be tactically useful. But
are they helping advance the strategic goals of U.S. counterterrorism?
Although terrorism is a tactic, it can succeed only on the strategic
level, by leveraging a shocking event for political gain. To be effective,
counterterrorism must itself respond with a coherent strategy. The
problem for Washington today is that its drone program has taken on
a life of its own, to the point where tactics are driving strategy rather
than the other way around.
The main goals of U.S. counterterrorism are threefold: the strategic
defeat of al Qaeda and groups affiliated with it, the containment of local
conflicts so that they do not breed new enemies, and the preservation of
the security of the American people. Drones do not serve all these goals.
Although they can protect the American people from attacks in the short
term, they are not helping to defeat al Qaeda, and they may be creating
sworn enemies out of a sea of local insurgents. It would be a mistake to
embrace killer drones as the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism.
At least since 9/11, the United States has sought the end of al Qaeda-
not just to set it back tactically, as drones have surely done, but also to
AUDREY KURTH CRONIN is Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and
the author of How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist
Campaigns. Follow her on Twitter @akcronin.


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