During the Vietnam War it was common knowledge that President Johnson was selecting and approving bombing targets from the Oval Office – the height of micromanagement. One of the concerns I have in prosecuting combat operations against Islamic jihadists is the belief that drones are the panacea for everything.
Let me be clear, drones are not a strategy, although they do create nice talking points of one guy killed here, five guys killed there, oops, an American and Italian hostage killed here. But what I find most interesting about the Obama administration reliance on drone usage is that the liberal progressive left would be going apoplectic if a Republican presidential administration were using similar tactics.
As reported by the Washington Post,
“The CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said. The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in a collaboration responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said.
Among those killed was a British militant thought to be an architect of the terrorist group’s effort to use social media to incite attacks in the United States, the officials said. The clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al-Qaeda as a threat. Although the CTC has been given an expanded role in identifying and locating senior Islamic State figures, U.S. officials said the strikes are being carried out exclusively by JSOC. The officials said the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”
“These people are being identified and targeted through a separate effort,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with the operation, referring to the British militant, Junaid Hussain, and others killed in a recent weeks. Spokesmen for the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees JSOC, declined to comment. Other officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity.”
Imagine, if you may, a Republican president running a “secret” drone program which was uncovered in the news media. Heck, I think we all remember the days of Abu Gharaib front page stories and pictures of U.S. troops killed and the death count – when was the last time you saw that despicable practice? I can tell you, it ended when their guy entered the White House.
Here is the issue. There are a couple of principles of war – unity of command and unity of effort. Now, a “secret” drone program violates those two maxims because it’s not a part of an overall strategy to defeat ISIS. Then again, we need a strategy in the first place. And the wanton killing of a social media guru means little if the overall capacity of the enemy is not being degraded – that is a violation of unity of effort.
Sadly, the Obama administration has failed to realize that killing a guy here and a guy there doesn’t stop a vile, savage, and barbaric ideological foe. If that were the case, al-Qaida would have collapsed with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and it has not. Is there a place for drones on the battlefield? Absolutely, but they need to be implemented at the operational and tactical levels – not from far away.
These drones need to be coordinated with the on-the-ground commander and his intent for the combat theater of operations – then again, who is in charge on the ground leading the effort against ISIS? After all, at last count nearly 3,000 troops have been committed to…well, I don’t know what to call it in Iraq.
So is President Obama trying to create his own little military unit that he can control and make sure they’re carrying out his politicized objectives? Has Obama via General Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice developed a formation to carry out orders coming directly from the White House – and not from U.S. Central Command led by Army General Lloyd Austin?
As WashPo states,
“The decision to enlist the CIA and JSOC reflects rising anxiety among U.S. counterterrorism officials about the danger the Islamic State poses, as well as frustration with the failure of conventional strikes to degrade the group’s strength. Against that backdrop, the Obama administration has turned again to two of its preferred weapons against terrorist groups: the CTC, which pioneered the use of armed drones and led the search for Osama bin Laden, and JSOC, which includes the elite commando unit that carried out the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief.”
So in lieu of a comprehensive strategy, have the CIA and JSOC become Obama’s personal Praetorian guard dedicated to carrying out his plans that in essence provide a facade over his failures to contend with the ISIS issue?
It cannot be debated that President Barack Obama made what will be one of history’s greatest strategic blunders in withdrawing all American forces from Iraq. This is a result of associating one’s campaign rhetoric and political ideology with national security and foreign policy – a serious no-no. And Obama will not admit his error but has to maintain an appearance of doing something – but that something must be highly controlled. Remember the definition of the Obama administration foreign policy is “don’t do stupid s!@t.” Too late!
Obama’s “secret” drone program is less about being effective against the enemy (officials said the secret drone program so far accounts for only a handful of strikes, a tiny fraction of the more than 2,450 conducted in Syria over the past year. That broader U.S.-led assault, which also includes an additional 4,000 strikes in Iraq, has relied on conventional bombs to dislodge the Islamic State from territory it has seized) as it is about presenting the appearance of doing something when actually little is being done – hence a falsified intel report from US CENTCOM. The hypocrisy continues in what the progressive left will allow “their guy” to do – imagine a President George W. Bush “secret” drone program?
Once upon a time, erstwhile MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann – anyone heard from him lately? – referred to JSOC and U.S. Navy SEAL Team VI as Vice President Dick Cheney’s assassin squad. So what has changed in that characterization? Simple, now Obama is using them.