No matter who wins the presidential election in two weeks, one policy that will continue unabated is America’s reliance on targeted drone strikes to wage war on militants in the Middle East.
“We can’t kill our way out of this mess” Governor Mitt Romney cautioned at the beginning of last night’s foreign policy debate. But later, the governor gave President Obama ‘s policy a ringing endorsement.
“I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world,” Romney said. “I support that entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology.”
Since 2001, the U.S. has killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians in drone strikes, according to The Washington Post, with the majority of those strikes occurring in Pakistan. The U.S. also plans to spend nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years on its drone program.
The secretive nature of the program is not without its critics.
“Even if you agree in theory with drone strikes, Obama’s actions ought to bother you,” writes the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf.
Appearing on msnbc’s Up with Chris Hayes program in June, the ACLU’s Director of National Security Project, Hina Shamsi warned that “there is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.”
Many eyebrows were also raised after a New York Times investigation this summer reported on President Obama’s personal approval of all targets on a secret “Kill List.”
The president has already ordered five times as many drone strikes in Pakistan as President George W. Bush did over the course of two terms, according to a 2012 study by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law.
“The truth is that al Qaeda is much weaker than when I came into office and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the US homeland and our allies as they did four years ago,” President Obama said during Monday night’s debate. Don’t expect the basic calculus to change under a Romney presidency.
“Expect more drone warfare in 2013 regardless of who wins the election,” Friedersdorf says.