TO DRONE OR NOT TO DRONE: DOES CITIZENSHIP MATTER?

Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military genius once said: “The military seeks not conquest but victory.”

Militarily, using drones to eliminate enemies is economical. It conforms to the “economy of force” tenant of battle, whereby one seeks to eliminate a threat with the minimum amount of force necessary, preserving heavier resources for heavier tasks. The military would rather subdue the enemy without battle, thereby achieving victory with the least possible cost to personnel, materiel, and collateral.

Politically however, the “cost” is measured in unhappy allies and American supporters.

We saw in Vietnam that militarily, after the Tet Offensive of Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army over-committed themselves by attacking and then briefly taking all South Vietnamese provincial capitals, but at great cost. The U.S. counter attacked and within days or weeks successfully won back every single gain the North had realized, and then had the bad guys on the run.

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Two U.S. drone strikes killed a total of nine suspected al-Qaida militants Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, a Yemeni military official said, the sixth and seventh such attacks in less than two weeks as the Arab nation is on high alert against terrorism. Credit: AP

In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Credit: AP 

 

Unfortunately, Walter Cronkite, the undisputed media voice for the American people, decided otherwise and told audiences in February 1968, that the war was “mired in stalemate,” and called for “negotiations.” From then on the U.S. looked for ways out of the conflict, eventually pulling out all U.S. troops in August 1973.

Recently, the Defense Department has identified an American al Qaeda operative overseas, who is, in the words of an anonymous source within the department, “actively planning attacks against Americans overseas.

The problem is, after the last targeted killing of an American overseas (al Qaeda operative and Virginia resident Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S. CIA drone in Yemen in 2011) there was an international and domestic uproar, especially by supporters of the president. This struck a nerve that could not be ignored, so Barack Hussein Obama fashioned new policies that somewhat quieted the crowd, but also tied our hands when seeking to eliminate known threats.

FILE - This Oct. 2008 file photo shows Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike. A public backlash is starting to grow in Yemen over civilians killed by American drones as the U.S. dramatically steps up its strikes against al-Qaida s branch here the past year. Relatives of those killed say the missile blasts hitting their towns only turn Yemenis against the U.S. campaign to crush militants. The drone strikes have taken out high-level targets in Yemen such as American-born cleric al-Awlaki, believed to have been a powerful tool for al-Qaida s recruiting in the West. Most, however, appear to target midlevel operatives. Credit: AP

This Oct. 2008 file photo shows Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011. Credit: AP 

 

The new drone policy preferred the Department of Defense, and not the CIA, using drones, and any American targeted needed to have substantial provable evidence against them, or proof of imminent danger before a mission could be green-lighted. Another complication, now part of the policy, is that we can no longer send a drone into airspace over a country that doesn’t want us conducting such an operation, unless that country is determined to be rogue.

Let’s go back to Sun Tzu for a moment. Remember that militarily, victory is the number one concern of any mission. That is the objective. If you want us to “win,” we need to be able to use every available asset to achieve victory.

If you want us to “win,” we need to be able to use every available asset to achieve victory.

Otherwise, you compromise your effectiveness and therefore your psychological advantage over your enemy. Once the enemy is emboldened by thinking you will not use your weapons effectively against him he becomes even more dangerous than when you were hunting him down like the rabid, running yellow dog he is.

The yin and yang of war is that whatever you fail to employ against your enemy’s weakness, becomes his strength. Whoever employs his weapons most effectively wins.

We were not defeated militarily in Vietnam, nor could we have been. Neither were we ever fully committed militarily. We limited our bombing of North Vietnam. We never effectively mined or blockaded Haiphong Harbor, the main route of shipping supplies to the North. And we never properly pursued the enemy after pushing him out of the cities and towns he took during Tet. We allowed Communist China to intimidate our commitment, let politicians limit our commitment, and then bent to public opinion and media sabotage of our military efforts.

Remembering also that the main objective of politicians is to get re-elected and then preserve a legacy for themselves, military victory is easily explained away as unnecessary conquest. As long as the enemy does not invade the United States or incite insurrection, all is well.

Pakistani protesters gather beside a burning US flag during a demonstration in Multan on May 25, 2012 against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt. A US drone strike on May 24, killed eight militants in a Taliban stronghold of Pakistan's tribal belt, bringing the death toll from such strikes to 12 in two days, Pakistani officials said. Pakistani-US relations went into free fall last year, starting when a CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis, then over the American raid that killed bin Laden on May 2 and lastly over US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani protesters gather beside a burning US flag during a demonstration in Multan on May 25, 2012 against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt. The US is allegedly considering a drone strike on an American terrorism suspect in Pakistan. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 

 

Sept. 11, 2001 changed all that. Or so we thought. My orders for activation after Sept. 11 stated that I was being ordered to military duty “in support of the Global War on Terror,” which sends our forces to more than 150 countries world wide today.

So, which is it, a War on Terror, or unfortunate little conquests we have no business perpetrating on others in the first place? Do we limit our engagement, thereby emboldening our enemy, or do we strike when necessary to save lives from potential (planned) attacks?

What we have now is legislated indecision. Advantage al Qaeda.

Prior to Awlaki’s demise, both the CIA and Department of Defense conducted drone operations. Now only the Department of Defense is authorized to do so, but actions by both houses of Congress have resisted making funds available for the transfer of CIA drones to the Army. Great hand wringing and gnashing of teeth is going on amongst our elected cowards, uh, I mean officials. They can’t see the War on Terror forest for the terrorist trees!

In the old days, prior to Awlaki’s killing, having the CIA and military  conduct targeted drone attacks kept the enemy unbalanced and unsure about where the threat was coming from. With only the military authorized to use drones we are “playing by the rules,” and tipping our intentions and take-off sites.

Advantage al Qaeda.

Does it matter if the enemy combatant is American or not? Should it?

In past conflicts Americans who were caught as traitors were summarily executed. Un-uniformed, or improperly uniformed spies can be lawfully shot on the battlefield in a hot war. Does it matter whether or not it’s from a field grade officer’s 9mm handgun or a drone?

Whether or not to use a drone may come down to whether or not you seek victory, with the only caveat being whether or not the target is more valuable dead or alive and at what cost you are willing to risk going and getting him.

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“Fair” Trials for Terrorists Threaten Americans

Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected Al-Qaeda leader, was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He’s due to stand trial as an accused civilian criminal in a Manhattan Federal Court, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 212 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded, including 12 Americans KIA.
When, as an Army Reservist I was activated for duty in 2002, 2003 and 2004, my military orders included the phrase “in support of the Global War on Terror,” and mentioned the atrocities on 9/11/01. Our history of prosecuting war criminals from our first war, through the Civil War and WWII, have been clear and simple, and for over 100 years supported by international law (Geneva Conventions) and our operative version of Geneva, called The Law of Land Warfare, or the modern Army Field Manual 27-10 (http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm27_10.pdf). These documents give guidance and regulation to how we treat enemy Prisoners of War (lawful combatants and protected persons), and are clear about not giving legal privileges and protections to those who do not follow the law (unlawful combatants). These documents inform repeatedly that those found in violation of the law can be “prosecuted” and then “executed.”
The Geneva Conventions were written in part to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own, one of the requirements in lawful conflict, it’s that they don’t want you to see them coming, and want us to believe they are merely innocent goat herders. It’s as if they want to be able to run onto the ball field from the stands at any time, murder an opposing player, and then disappear back into the crowd. And when security comes to take them away they say “it wasn’t me!” They lawyer up, play the system, and then go back to killing Americans.
Human Rights First (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/USLS-Fact-Sheet-Courts.pdf) brags that “Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11.” And that “Federal prisons hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses.” But they don’t mention what happened to the other nearly 200 convicted terrorists! Can we assume they are free on American soil? If prosecuted and then convicted, could al-Libi be set free someday on Main Street U.S.A.?
At least the over 600 Gitmo detainees who’ve been released so far are not suspected of being on our shores, but the over 28% combined recidivism rate amongst these released Gitmo detainees (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) is no comfort, especially to the loved ones of those killed in the Benghazi attack (led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufian bin Qumu), which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in early February 2002, just months after 9/11/01, my Army Reserve enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment was prepared to participate in military tribunals to determine the status of Gitmo detainees fresh off of planes from Afghanistan, where most of the first detainees had participated in a deadly but failed prison uprising which claimed the first American life in our retaliation for 9/11, CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann. Instead, the principle of “lawfare,” or the exploitation of the American justice system by detainees, their lawyers, sympathizers and apologists in order to manipulate American political will (which also caused disruption of U.S. military detention operations), took hold.
Today, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the current legal policies governing the prosecution of accused war criminals in the Global War on Terror, affords unlawful combatant Islamist detainees virtually the SAME RIGHTS as you or I would enjoy were we in a Federal Court of Law (http://www.mc.mil/ABOUTUS/LegalSystemComparison.aspx). Even though the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, created to protect innocent civilians during war, offer NO extra-legal privileges for those who break the law.
The Obama administration has taken the disposition of Global War on Terror suspected war criminals to an absurd level, not only allowing them to remain in the stadium, but giving them luxury boxes and rain-check tickets for a repeat performance, and are continuing to put American lives at risk by bringing the latest and greatest al Qaeda suspect to U.S. shores, when he should be at Gitmo receiving a professional interrogation from our best and brightest.
Urban myths about the treatment of Gitmo detainees are now vernacular, especially amongst the “low information” crowd who rarely dig deeper than their news feed sound bites provide, but the truth is that although over 600+ Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released, none have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets. In contrast, the only U.S. prisoner held by Taliban or al Qaeda believed not to have had his head slowly removed from his body by a long jihadi knife, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, missing since June, 2009, remains a mystery. Where are Amnesty International, the ACLU and other so-called “human rights” organizations on Sgt. Bergdahl? Why won’t the mainstream media or Barack Hussein Obama even show his face or demand his release?
I know from my 22 years as a military member and over 9 years of service as an Army officer with an enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment, the best way to obtain valuable information from enemy suspects is to convince them that unless they cooperate they will remain in detention. Which, according to the Geneva Conventions is legal. Even lawful combatant POWs may be held, without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” This is not “indefinite detention,” as some would complain; no more indefinite than a baseball game in extra innings. In theory, the game could go on endlessly, but it never does, and neither would unlawful combatant detainees be held “forever.” We need to redouble our efforts to take away our enemy’s means and will to fight and kill us. Until then, the finest military detention facility in the world is ready, willing and able to take care of and provide opportunities for unlawful combatants to help end the Global War on Terror.