Back during the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was directing bombing strikes from the White House. For those who understand the three levels of warfare — strategic, operational, and tactical — you realize this is a complete violation of principles of warfare. Now, I have no issue with the utilization of drones as a means to attack Islamic terrorists.
However, this is a weapon system best employed by the theater operational commander who has intelligence cognizance — not approved at the strategic level, especially as directed from the White House. What could be the unintended consequences of such action?
As reported by USA Today, “President Obama expressed “grief and condolences” Thursday for a January drone strike against suspected terrorists in Pakistan that accidentally killed two hostages, including an American aid worker. Obama said he took full responsibility for the operation and apologized to the families of the hostages. “I profoundly regret what happened,” he said. The two Western hostages — one American, one Italian — were killed during a drone strike that targeted members of al-Qaida, the White House said. They were Warren Weinstein, 73, an aid worker from Maryland who was a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, an Italian citizen working for a German aid agency. Both were kidnapped by al-Qaida in Pakistan — Weinstein in 2011 and Lo Porto in 2012. The White House said the counterterrorism operation, and another this year in the same region, also killed two other Americans believed to be working with al-Qaida. In an extraordinary eight-minute statement to reporters, a solemn Obama halted at points during his brief remarks, looking down at notes. “I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today,” he said.”
The first issue has to be, why is the family just now finding out about this fratricide by drone strike, which occurred in January? I thought this was supposed to be the most transparent administration in American history.
Of course there will be those who challenge the use of drones to target Americans – a la Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed along with his son in Yemen. It is imperative that we establish a policy addressing Americans who depart these shores and take up arms or propagandize against America supporting Islamic terrorists and jihadists. I assert that any American who leaves this country to do such and is engaged in operations against America on this battlefield, abdicates his citizenship and should be seen as an enemy. But, without a clear designation of this current conflagration — war on terror is a horrific misnomer — we are operating in murky waters. We need a definitive rule of engagement for these circumstances.
The two Americans killed supporting al-Qaida were Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qaida leader, and Adam Gadahn, who was also killed in a separate operation in January. Earnest said Gadahn was not the specific target of that strike.
President Obama stated, “It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and our fight against terrorism specifically, that mistakes, and sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur”.
I understand Clausewitz’s “Fog of War” but I also realize that something went terribly wrong in the decision-making authorizing this strike.
“The site of the attack had been under surveillance for hundreds of hours, and that surveillance was “near-continuous” in the days just before the attack, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. The spying used a variety of methods, including drone imagery, and discovered a known al-Qaida operative driving into the compound, said U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity. Based on that intelligence, Earnest said, intelligence analysts concluded with “near certainty” that al-Qaida leaders were present and that civilians were not.”
Read more: allenbwest.com