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Is the Drone Program Contracting -- or Expanding?

May 28, 2013 ·

To President Obama, drones are the answer to his foreign-policy prayers.

To President Obama, drones are the answer to his foreign-policy prayers.

drones-targeted killing-president obamaAfter President Obama’s speech on May 23 at the National Defense University, Peter Baker reported for the New York Times:

"Nearly a dozen years after the hijackings that transformed America, President Obama said Thursday that it was time to narrow the scope of the grinding battle against terrorists and begin the transition to a day when the country will no longer be on a war footing."

But, at McClatchy, Leslie Clark and Jonathan Landay noted that “he also appeared to be laying groundwork for an expansion of the controversial targeted killings.”

… Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who are targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions”. … In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.

But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from “those who want to kill us” and “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat” to “all potential terrorist targets.”

If the members of the Obama administration seek to expand the ranks of those deemed eligible for drone strikes, maybe it’s because they’re tired of individuals popping up so readily to replace militant leaders that they’ve exploded to smithereens. Maybe they figure that if they target the next-in-command first, when the leader is then inevitably assassinated, it will leave a void that the militants will scramble to replace. (Tongue in cheek! Sort of.)