On the Monday before Christmas, President Obama authorized two drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to wish two terrorists a merry Christmas and a happy New Year with hellfire missiles.
This latest strike raises the question of whether or not Obama's foreign policy will be negatively defined by his prolific and sometimes successful use of drones. Drone strikes have undoubtedly become one of the cornerstones of President Obama's policy on terrorism and military operations worldwide. The jury is still out on whether or not this strategy will stain Obama's historic presidency as it has produced both pros and cons among observers.
On Monday, two drone strikes were launched by the U.S. to target two prominent members of AQAP.
Abdul Raouf Naseeb, a Yemeni AQAP member involved in the attack on the USS Cole, and another AQAP member, whose name is still unknown, perished in the attacks with a Jordanian citizen, a local Yemeni, and a local official. It's currently unknown if the collateral casualties were intended targets or connected to AQAP.
Naseeb had previously escaped a drone attack in 2003 that was targeting AQAP operations in Yemen. He was not so fortunate this time around.
These drone attacks were the first in almost two months in the Arabian Peninsula.
It's not surprising why Obama's anti-war critics have dubbed him the "Reaper President" as his presidency has borne witness to the most prolific use of drones since these tools of war came into large scale use by the U.S military and intelligence services.
It's well known that Obama has a secret "kill list" for U.S. drone operations in the War on Terror.
Why does President Obama and the Department of Defense use drones on a large scale? According to the Department of Defense FY 2009–2034 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap report:
"In today’s military, unmanned systems are highly desired by combatant commanders for
their versatility and persistence. By performing tasks such as surveillance; signals
intelligence (SIGINT); precision target designation; mine detection; and chemical,
biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance, unmanned systems have made key contributions to the Global War on Terror."
To date, the drone operations authorized by President Obama have been responsible for the death of multiple figureheads within Al-Qaeda, including its number 2, Abu Yahya Al-Libi and the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki.
Given the pros and cons of using drone strikes, does this strategy give President Obama a negative legacy in the foreign policy arena?
On the negative side, the drones have killed unintended targets, including men, women, and children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such deaths will likely not endear targeted populations to the U.S. and her allies.
But on the other side, many terrorists are no longer around to threaten the men, women, and children of the U.S.
Technologies, like drones, are still up-and-coming tools of war. Human error is also a factor in the process. The innocents who die are a tragic reminder of the costs of war on civilians, which has happened throughout history.
How will history judge Obama? We shall see as the jury is still out.