When The Classified Seals Come Off

One of the most consistent aspects of foreign policy and national security in the Obama Administration is drone warfare. As recently as a week ago, another round of drone strikes occurred, this time in Yemen. By my last reading, more than thirty people were killed. There are no reports of civilian casualties, so we must assume that terrorists, or irregular soldiers in my lexicon, were the fatalities. They were from al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-related groups.

When the classified nature of such activities ends and research can be conducted in American archives, we'll learn even more about the extensive use of and reliance on drone warfare in the Obama Administration. It's intriguing to look at the dichotomy between this technique and the overall reluctance of the Obama Administration to act forcefully in almost any other way. Very interesting.

Allow me, if you will, to speculate on the implications of this trend.

1. Shows zero tolerance of any prospect of American casualties. No deaths, no injuries, no potential prisoners. The absolute rejection of American casualties, while laudable in many ways, can have negative repercussions of its own.

2. The frequency of the trend begins to suggest that what is fundamentally a tactic (drone warfare in this case, irregular warfare overall) can, with repeated use, begin to rise to the level of a strategy and a part of general identity for the Administration. This is especially true if there is a strategic void, if no other actual strategy exists.

3. Eliminates all possibility of collateral momentum. We hear occasionally of “collateral damage” in military terms. That's the unexpected casualties to civilians in a military operation. I think the hyper-reliance on drones might sacrifice a potential gain–the additional information, insights, and resources that can be uncovered when soldiers perform missions on the actual ground.

We haven't heard the last of this, not from the Obama Administration and, more importantly, not from future presidents and commanders-in-chief. Not by a long shot.