The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

This is a pretty amazing story in the NYTimes this morning, detailing the Drone usage in Pakistan, and documenting both the offical acknowledgement of its existence, and the official government approval of its expansion:

From 2004 to 2007, the C.I.A. carried out only a handful of strikes. But pressure from the Congressional intelligence committees, greater confidence in the technology and reduced resistance from Pakistan led to a sharp increase starting in the summer of 2008. One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, the drone program is quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials...

It is basically an expansion of the Bush Doctrine, that of of preemptive war or military strikes within a country within we are not at war, through the CIA with US military drones in Pakistan



About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed "more than 400" enemy fighters... That claim, which the official said reflected the Predators' ability to loiter over a target feeding video images for hours before and after a strike...

...with few other tools to use against Al Qaeda, the drone program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and was escalated by the Obama administration in January. More C.I.A. drone attacks have been conducted under President Obama than under President George W. Bush. The political consensus in support of the drone program, its antiseptic, high-tech appeal and its secrecy have obscured just how radical it is. For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war.

In the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, C.I.A. officials were not eager to embrace killing terrorists from afar with video-game controls, said one former intelligence official. "There was also a lot of reluctance at Langley to get into a lethal program like this," the official said. But officers grew comfortable with the program as they checked off their hit list more than a dozen notorious figures...

The drone warfare pioneered by the C.I.A. in Pakistan and the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan is the leading edge of a wave of push-button combat that will raise legal, moral and political questions around the world, said P. W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and author of the book "Wired for War."

Forty-four countries have unmanned aircraft for surveillance, Mr. Singer said. So far, only the United States and Israel have used the planes for strikes, but that number will grow.

"We're talking about a technology that's not going away," he said.

The Bush Doctrine, perhaps the most radical un-American legacy of George Bush, is not going away. Yea, right now, its pretty easy to celebrate that the "warheads on foreheads" is military technology which only the CIA holds, and is only being used by the US against terrorists in Pakistan.


But how long do you think it will be until that utopian use of military technology is bought or attained by aggressive military forces which have their own design on using the Drone technology toward their own ends?

Though Pakistanis in the regions of the strikes are more supportive of the drones, overall:

...the drones are unpopular with many Pakistanis, who see them as a violation of their country's sovereignty -- one reason the United States refuses to officially acknowledge the attacks. A poll by Gallup Pakistan last summer found only 9 percent of Pakistanis in favor of the attacks and 67 percent against, with a majority ranking the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than its archrival, India, or the Pakistani Taliban.

There's no question that it works, and that its effective, but you really have to wonder about what's been unleashed with such a preemptive doctrine.


Then there is the whole legal front which is quite sketchy, to put it kindly:


Philip Alston, the United Nations' special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions and a prominent critic of the program, has said it is impossible to judge whether the program violates international law without knowing whether Pakistan permits the incursions, how targets are selected and what is done to minimize civilian casualties.


The CIA-led Drone war in Pakistan broke new ground for the Bush Doctrine, by extending pre-emptive war strikes into nonconfirmation of its existence-- even after more than 80 strikes had occurred. That's all changing this week though:

The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week.

Update [2009-12-4 11:11:57 by Jerome Armstrong]: I came across this New Yorker article on drones from October, which details some of the likely expansion referred to above, being that of going after drug lords in Afghanistan:

The Obama Administration has also widened the scope of authorized drone attacks in Afghanistan. An August report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee disclosed that the Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List—the Pentagon’s roster of approved terrorist targets, containing three hundred and sixty-seven names—was recently expanded to include some fifty Afghan drug lords who are suspected of giving money to help finance the Taliban. These new targets are a step removed from Al Qaeda. According to the Senate report, “There is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds goes to Al Qaeda.” The inclusion of Afghan narcotics traffickers on the U.S. target list could prove awkward, some observers say, given that President Hamid Karzai’s running mate, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and the President’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are strongly suspected of involvement in narcotics.

...A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, defended the program without quite acknowledging its existence.

Tags: bush doctrine (all tags)



This is now the Biden doctrine

from what I understand...

And yeah, quite shocking...but not a surprise.

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-04 04:52AM | 0 recs
Re: This is now the Biden doctrine

Could be, as he with at the Senate Foreign Relation and Feinstein as the chair of the Intelligence committee, are what is referred to above.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-04 05:06AM | 0 recs
Re: This is now the Biden doctrine

Or the Clinton Doctrine since he too bombed countries like Afghanistan and the Sudan. And let's not even bring up Kosovo.

I've really stopped paying attention to Jeromes thoughtless rants. His re-defining of the Bush doctrine simply to bash Obama is just one of a long string...

by vecky 2009-12-04 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

Although I agree with you on the futility of the Afghanistan surge, but I disagree here. The drone attacks are the only things that are creating any fear in the NWFP/FATA regions where al qaeda and Taliban are amassing. Given the US and NATO troops cannot enter Pakistan and the Pakistani army is recalcitrant to take any meaningful measures in that region beyond token gestures, this is the only thing that is taking the fight over there. Take that away and you embolden them even more. You should read the account of the NYT hostage in that region. He recounts very well how the drone attacks are feared by al qaeda and Taliban.

by tarheel74 2009-12-04 05:55AM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

It works, very well... what I recognize is that this has a very slippery slope and that the CIA is not going to be the only one making these attacks come the future. What a hellish world this portends.

And yea, its quite a dramatic and regrettable change to see how swiftly the Bush Doctrine has been accepted across the board in the US as our policy.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-04 06:28AM | 0 recs
There is another reason it is kept a secret

Morally, it is very very hard to justify video game wars.  Wars fought on unequal terms lead to short term gain... and unless the short term gains equate to complete destruction of the enemy.. substantial long term damage.

The feelings of rage and helpnessness one feels when subject to a remote controlled barrage of bullets is, I suspect, a handy recrutiting tool.  Imagine the rage and helplessness one feels when a terrorist blows up a mosque, or the WTC.

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-04 06:44AM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

Bill Clinton certainly authorized plenty of attacks within countries we weren't at war with.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, etc.

Since this is apparently what we're supposed to call "the Bush Doctrine" I guess Clinton was an early adopter?  I knew that man was a visionary.

by Steve M 2009-12-04 07:20AM | 0 recs
The Clinton Doctrine

I agree that referring to the preemptive use of precision weapons against terrorist cells in countries for which we are not at war with is a laughable history mistake, the practice dates back to well before even Clinton.

Still, if we want to attack Obama, I can't figure out if it is more damning to start referring to this practice as the Obama Doctrine, as apparently even the best and brightest among us have a short memory, or to still call it the Bush doctrine under the hope of generating a meme that Obama really is no different than George W.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-04 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The Clinton Doctrine

When Sarah Palin got criticized for not having any idea what the Bush Doctrine was, I thought to myself, is the term really that well-defined?  I guess we have a case in point.

by Steve M 2009-12-04 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

As I recall, the missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan were in response to specific terrorist events.

Iraq was under a UN cover to enforce no-fly zones and what not!!

Kosovo was done without a UN cover, but with a NATO mandate.

They were all dubious acts in my mind, but hardly the same as pre-emptive war !!

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-04 05:31PM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

Well, we haven't exactly declared preemptive war on Pakistan.  In fact we're allied with Pakistan.

When Clinton blew up the Iraqi intelligence headquarters it had nothing to do with the no-fly zone.  In theory it was in retaliation for the alleged assassination plot against Bush I.

by Steve M 2009-12-04 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

That is why I said no-fly zones and "what-nots"  (the Bush plot, and the inspectors issue etc. would be the what-nots)

The issue of predator strikes in Pakistan is even more of an issue because we are allied with Pakistan, and yet (in their eyes) bomb their territory at will!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-04 06:24PM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

I don't get it.  Are you truly claiming that we shot missiles into Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. in response to something, while we're just willy-nilly sending drones into Pakistan in response to nothing in particular?  Of course we're doing this for a very specific reason.

by Steve M 2009-12-04 06:46PM | 0 recs
Do you disagree ?

The mission in Af-Pak stopped being a response to 9-11 a long time back.  The mission there is to prevent AQ from organizing, planning, and training for terror attacks.

It is not a response, it is pre-emption!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-04 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Do you disagree ?

pre-emption of attacks, ie, Bush Doctrine. The silly attempts to make this Clinton's doctrine is just mindless drivel from Obama-brand-control-bots stuck in the '08 primary that thing all things bad which Obama does must be tagged with Clinton's fault.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-05 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

I don't think the use of predator drones in Pakistan is part of the doctrine of pre-emptive war. After all, we are at war already with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The doctrine of pre-emptive war held the US holds the right to depose a regime if the US believes that regime threatened the security of the US even if that threat was not immediate. Since our aim here is not to overthrow the regime in Islamabad, the use of predator drone does not fit  the doctrine of pre-emptive war. Moreover, the Bush Doctrine is more than just the right to pre-emption. It includes unilateralism, which again is not the case here since these strikes are conducted in conjunction with Pakistani authorities.

The problem is that these are extra-judicial killings that offers the enemy no chance to surrender. Furthermore the drones are indiscriminate - they just don't kill terrorists and enemy combatants, they kill non-combatants as well. The proportion of combatants to non-combatants remains a hotly debated subject. This August, Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed "687 innocent Pakistani civilians." And the strikes are deeply unpopular within Pakistan.

A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the "public outrage" they arouse.

However, counter-terrorism specialist Bill Riggio of the Long War Journal concludes that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.

And then there is the work of Peter Bergen at the New America Foundation.

Since 2006, our analysis indicates, 83 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 760 and 1,050 people. Among them were about 20 leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied groups, all of whom have been killed since January 2008.
It is not possible to differentiate precisely between militant and civilian casualties, because the militants live among the population and don't wear uniforms and because the militants have the incentive to claim that all the casualties were civilians, but government sources tend to claim the opposite.
However, of those killed in drone attacks from 2006 through mid-October 2009, approximately 500 to 720 were described in reliable press reports as militants, or roughly two-thirds of the total killed.

Based on our count of the estimated number of militants killed, the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 260 to 320, or one-third of those killed.

That finding tracks with polling by the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, described by The News of Pakistan as "a think tank of researchers and political activists" that works in the Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border, where the drone attacks have consistently taken place.
It found that more than half the people surveyed in winter 2008 in this region, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, said the drone strikes were accurate and were damaging the militant organizations based there.

Under President Obama, the strikes have taken out at most half a dozen militant leaders while killing approximately 450 other people. Of those, about 75 percent are reported to have been lower-level militants, and about a quarter appear to have been civilians. The strikes appear to have killed a slightly lower percentage of civilians in the past nine months than during the earlier years of the American drone campaign in Pakistan.
Obama, far from curtailing the drone program he inherited from President George W. Bush, has dramatically increased the number of U.S. Predator and Reaper drone strikes. There have been 44 strikes in Pakistan this year (two while Bush was still in office), compared with 34 in all of 2008. None of the strikes under either Bush or Obama has targeted Osama bin Laden, who seems to have vanished like a wraith.

So you have estimates ranging from 2 percent kill rate to 90 percent kill rate with the NAF's 75 percent kill rate. The predator drones are also being used in Yemen and in Somalia and it is believed that part of the reason that the US sought bases in Colombia was to test the use of the technology within a dense jungle setting against the FARC.

To conclude, the use of predator drones are indeed a continuation and an expansion of a Bush policy but their use does not fall within what scholars perceive to be the Bush Doctrine nor within the doctrine of pre-emption. The problem with the use of drones is the extra-judicial character of the killings, the kill rate among non-combatants, and Pakistani public opinion which holds the Zardari government responsible thus undercutting an already tenuous support for the government.

The problem for the Obama Administration has been how to get at the militants within their refuge inside Pakistan since all too often they are protected by rogue elements within Pakistan's ISI and military. So far the drone attacks have taken place in the tribal lands in the NWFP and the FATA but now the Administration is pressing to expand them into Balochistan for the first time. The drones have disrupted both Al-Qaeda and Taliban networks in remote rural areas but much of the Afghan Taliban leadership has been in cities like Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. How to get at them is an issue that Administration has not yet solved.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-04 07:54AM | 0 recs
preemptive attacks

Well, its just a semantic change, with preemptive attacks replacing preemptive war, for how it fits under the Bush Doctrine.

Via a Pakistan viewpoint:

Preemptive attacks" are blatant violations to international law.

Under International Law

Drone attacks on Pakistan have no legal status according to international law. There is no UN resolution for carrying out such attacks in the sovereign country of Pakistan. In international law, these are unwarranted violations of sovereignty of a state.

Article 2, Chapter 4 clearly forbids a country from attacking another but the US uses an argument of self defense based upon shaky anticipations of attacks.  International law doesn't allow anticipatory "self defense", a concept outlined in the Bush Doctrine referred to as "Preemptive Attacks". There are two countries, America and Israel, who resort to such a way. However "Preemptive attacks" are blatant violations to international law.

If the United States has intelligence of terrorist activities in the tribal areas, it could share it with Pakistan as both countries are partners in the "war on terror". But they wouldn't do so due to lack of trust. America contends elements in Pakistan's intelligence of links with the terrorists. A claim Pakistan strongly denies and points out the death of 1800 of its soldiers in fight against terrorism as proof of its commitment. Pakistan also has apprehended around 700 Al-Qaeda operatives and leaders, which is the largest figure by any single country.

Pakistan's president asked Americans to give these drones to Pakistan and it would cautiously use to fight the Taliban.

Howabout that last line.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-04 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: preemptive attacks

The Pakistanis have been very eager to get their hands on the technology which is of great concern. That must  be prevented at all costs.

The point in which I think you are spot on in your post is the slippery slope aspect.

The decision on targets is made based on intelligence reports and it's not clear how reliable these are. One of the problems for US intelligence in the region is that we don't have much personnel in the region. This is a part of the world where outsiders can freely move around in. That's a huge problem. So we are dependent on local informants and thus become prone to local vendettas. And one component of tribal Pakistan is that vendettas go back centuries. Are we abetting a tribal cleansing is a question that has been raised.

I meant to add, the Israelis have also used their own predator drone technology in Gaza.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-04 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: preemptive attacks


This is a part of the world where outsiders cannot freely move around in.  We don't look like them, our Pashto speaking abilities are limited and these are tribal societies where everybody knows everybody and outsiders are not welcomed.

That part about outsiders not being welcomed is in part why I think  more troops in Afghanistan is a recipe for failure.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-04 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: preemptive attacks

Giving this technology to the Pakistanis will only lead to its use in Kashmir and an escalation of the arms race. I still do not get Obama's overall Af/Pak strategy. Send more troops to Afghanistan and shovel billions more dollars to Pakistan and somehow throwing more troops and more money will solve the problem? The problem is the Pakistani army and government. They are corrupt, all too often aligned with Islamic fundamentalists and really are interested in expanding their influence in that region. Without the threat of some sort of economical punitive measures it will be business as usual in Pakistan, where they are basically holding US interests in that region to hostage. If we are to get serious about Af/Pak we need to focus more on the Pak part of Af/Pak because there lies the nidus of the problem.

by tarheel74 2009-12-04 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: preemptive attacks

It's actually potentially worse, with Blackwater providing services to JSOC without Congressional accuntability and 'plausible deniability' via a tortuous chain of responsibility:

 The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."

The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality." He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that. It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"

Jeremy Scahill - The Secret US War in Pakistan The Nation 23 Nov 09

The article cited touches on other grey areas of our operations in Pakistan and is well worth a read.  I must admit I have mixed feelings about a lot of the issues raised.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-12-04 01:14PM | 0 recs
A slight quibble

with profound implications...

My understanding of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is that war is justified against a country or entity that may be planning attacks against the US; even if that attack is not immediate.  

Regime change is just one end goal; and is not always possible ~ e.g., as in the present case where there isn't any regime that can be changed.

Another end goals, which is applicable in this case, is the disruption of the entity (e.g., by killing it's leadership, or by destroying it's trainign facilities) such that they cannot plan those attacks anymore.

Thus, the absence of regime change as a goal does not mean that doctrine of PreEmption is not being applied.

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-05 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine

From the Council of Foreign Relations:

Policy Implications of the Bush Doctrine on Preemption.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-04 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: The Bush Doctrine's Drone War

As things stand, drones offer us the only hope of ever nailing bin Laden or al-Zawahiri if they truly are in Pakistan. That's what this is all about. Also, I wouldn't term these extrajudicial killings - this is a military operation, against a quasi-state foe. As for civilian casualties, I doubt that anyone sharing the same roof with these militants is truly a neutral. Anyone who brings them into their home must know they risks they are accepting for themselves and their families.

by bucky katt 2009-12-04 08:35AM | 0 recs
Save our Drones

My main concern  is the safety of our drones. These incredible machines do the work of our brave young fighting men or women, protecting them day in and day out from the heat of battle.

Two days ago one of our drones was shot down in Afghanistan. There was almost no reporting done onb this tragic event.

There are no parades, no ceremony, there is no funeral, there are no letters or medals that are awarded our drones.

They just do their job. And some of them never make it back. They are regarded as "things".

They are not things, they are drones- and whether they are made out of metal or flesh, shouldn't matter. They are protecting our soldiers from AL Queda.

We need to raise our conciousness about them. Some of them need a little more oil, or a paint job, or just a name emblazoned across their nose. Anything anyone here can donate to extend the life of these fantastic creations would be appreciated, I'm sure by the drone community.

It could make all the difference in the world.

Save our drones.

You might as well start laughing. Because the absurdity of these "wars" against people who live in villages and wonder what the hell are they bombing us for is beyond any level of stupidity I can think of.

by stu Piddy 2009-12-04 08:42AM | 0 recs


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