Which is it? “Drones Kill al Qaeda” – “Drones Make al Qaeda”

The past week has brought a flurry of debate sprinkled with intermittent anger over how the U.S. utilizes unmanned, armed drones to target al Qaeda members around the world.  After I wrote the post, “Americans: If you don’t want to get killed by a drone, avoid these 4 things!”, I received a flurry of hate mail (of which a fraction actually dealt with drone policy) and some positive discussion.  The debate on whether the U.S. should use drones to kill al Qaeda members hinges on two separate points of contention.

  1. Legal/Moral: Can the U.S. legally use drones to engage al Qaeda members (American or non-American)?
  2. Efficacy: Do drones eliminate more al Qaeda members than they create?

Today, I’ll focus on the latter question and save the legal/moral/ethical debate for later.

So are drones effective?  Osama Bin Laden noted in his internal documents the devastating impact of drones on al Qaeda in Pakistan.  However, Gregory Johnsen, Jeremy Scahill and other Yemen journalists/analysts see drones not as the great killer of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) but instead the primary radicalizing force for new recruits to AQAP.  So which is it? Do drones eliminate al Qaeda or do they create al Qaeda?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please cast your votes on the efficacy of drones and the results should show up after you cast your ballot.  Note, this question is only about the efficacy of drones – save your moral/legal arguments for later.  And no hedging! Is it worth continuing drone operations or not? Don’t qualify with “Sometimes” or “Depends on the conditions”. Assume that regardless of the context, the drone program will be conducted in roughly the same way with the same results.

 

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