In the past few years, U.S. military drones have laser-targeted enemies in sovereign nations, taking out the top-10 terrorists and destabilizing the leadership of groups like Al Qaeda. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is — and now we’re getting to the really bad part.
As we increase our use of drones, the splatter damage is going up as well. Sure, drones are killing machines that can act as remote-controlled assassins, but too often they hit targets that they aren’t meant to. On September 5, a drone killed five suspected militants in Yemen. Though they weren’t on the most-wanted list, it’s this kind of attack that might justify drone strikes. But on Monday, September 3, a suspected drone strike killed 13 civilians in Sanaa, Yemen, including three women. “This was one of the very few times when our target was completely missed,” a Yemeni Defense Ministry told CNN.
Drones are hitting a backlash moment. Salon has an article describing the negative reaction to drone strikes as “blowback,” or the “unintended actions that harm America resulting from U.S. policies.” The University of Arizona has released a report suggesting that the blowback will result in actually making the problem worse, increasing recruitment for Al Qaeda in the area of the strikes and “decreased US accountability,” which, duh.
Are drone strikes driving the people we want to defend into siding with our enemies? “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake,” local activist Nasr Abdullah told CNN. If that’s not blowback, nothing is.
The promise of drones is that they can carry out attacks without harming the population who aren’t fighting us, a huge advantage in guerrilla situations. That promise is rapidly failing as accidents turn the groups who should be our allies against us. Drones have crashed in testing. One got captured by Iran, which might be making a copy of it. They contribute to negative opinion building against the US military. They have their advantages, no one can argue that point. But it might be past time to rethink exactly how they’re dispatched in other countries, because these chickens are already coming home to roost and that even has police chiefs worried.
(Photo: Charles McCain/Flickr)