Drones By Default

Ambers contends that America’s “targeted killing policy is the best of all worst options for two reasons”:

One: The United States does not have a coherent and legitimate capture and detention policy. (Thank the CIA torture program, Abu Ghraib, Congress, and the Obama administration’s weak efforts to create one.) Two: Human intelligence collection has atrophied to the point where there are not enough people on the ground to facilitate the capture and detention of wanted targets.


This means the US over relies on technical intelligence, and on signals intelligence in particular. In Pakistan, it relies on tips from the Army and the ISI. Often, the member of al Qaeda core who’s been identified by the ISI is not, in fact, a member of al Qaeda core, but is instead a Pakistani Taliban or militant who is not sufficiently pro-Pakistan. The U.S. has gotten better at vetting these tips, but the policy generally is that it’s best not to let the sufficient be the enemy of the reliable. Yemen’s government does the same thing. The U.S. MUST rely on allied intelligence services because it cannot rely on its own. So: Bad guys exist. Can’t capture ’em. Can’t figure out who they are without help. What’s the answer? You kill them. If you oppose the policy of targeted killing of al Qaeda operatives, then you ought to support a viable detention system as well as a significant increase in our indigenous human intelligence capacity. Special operations forces and the CIA really would like to capture these guys and interrogate them, because these guys will often give up their comrades. But they can’t. So they don’t. And the president won’t take any chances in letting someone potentially dangerous slip through his grasp.