« Romney and Kolob | Main | Iraq aids Syria (yet another US policy win) »

08 October 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


US implemented a no-fly zone in Iraq approx. 1990-2000; not significantly different from the NATO no-fly zone in Libya. Had Iraq any significant popular insurgency during that period, no doubt the US would have tried to aid it.

Regarding the amorphous "war on terrorism", the fact remains that terrorism would be quickly be wiped out but for its state sponsors. To put the horse before the cart, drones are the rational response to nuclear-armed state sponsors of terrorism.


I see a rich future in "drone arms control," and we better get started soonest. Thanks for a thoughtful piece.

R Whitman

Smaller sacrificial drones containing HE warheads are no more complicated than a modern automobile. Imagine a small country producing these on an assembly line and using video gamers to operate them through ordinary communication sattelites.

Bill H.

We thought (ha, hoped) we could maintain a monopoly on the atomic bomb, too. The day will come when pretty much everyone has these things, and we have set the standard for their use.

Richard Armstrong

Deaths caused by radical Islamists beaten OCT 2000 and 2009

12 OCT 2000 - USS Cole - Aden, Yemen - 17 sailors.
11 SEP 2001 - 5,965
14 JUN 2002, Karachi, Pakistan - 12
12 MAY 2003 - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 8
29 MAY 2004, Riyadh, Saudi Arabla 1
11 JUN 2004, 1
1 JUN 2004 - 1
6 DEC 2004 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Jedda, 5
9 NOV Amman, Jordon, 3
26 MAY 2008, Iraq 6
24 JUN 2008, Iraq 3
26 MAY 2008, Tarmiya Iraq 6
24 JUN 2008, Karma, Iraq 3
12 JUN 2008, Farah Province, 4
13 JUN 2008, Kunar Province 9
16 SEP 2008, Yemen, 16
9 FEB 2009 Iraq 4
10 APR 2009 4
10 APR 2009 4

Thats a total of 6070 Americans by terrorist attacks over the past 11 years.

Over that time period between 900 to 1000 American were killed by bee stings annually.

in 1999 the CDC estimated that between 5,000 and 9,000 Americans are killed by food poisoning.

Almost 42,363 Americans are killed in auto accidents annually.

I could go on but the total number of Americans killed by these causes is just about 58,000.

6,700 compared to 42,000? Come on now. You guys are reasonable people. You can recognize that over the past 10 that 6 times at many American died in America do to accidents and natural causes than were kill by the "terrorists."

How in the heck can radical Muslims truly be an existential threat to the United State?

The last nation that truly posed an existential threat was my beloved Confederacy and they darned near pulled it off had they captured Washington. Since the War of Northern Aggression the United States has never faced an existential threat since the War of Independence. Germany in WWI never had the means to threaten us. Germany in WWII really never had the means to threaten us. Korea with China's "volunteers" couldn't threaten America's existence and neither could Vietnam.

Radical Islamist pose the greatest threat to the regimes in the Middle East.

Let them fight their own damned wars and quit wasting American lives and treasure.

William R. Cumming

Great post General Ali! And unstated of course is the concern that domestic deployment of drones will eventually be used by the National Security State to help prevent its demise.


Have drones ever been tested against competent air defenses? Say, the same level that the Serbs were able to manage, not top of the line equipment, but manned by dedicated and imaginative professionals.


The desire and ability of 'terrorists' to use 'our' drone technology against us will not change if we were to stop using drones immediately. That train has left the station.

The valid reason is the moral effect on America and our ability to provide moral leadership. We do indeed risk destabilizing America: What it is, what it stands for, how it sees itself, and, not least, how it’s seen by the world.

It's a stretch to blame Israel for starting a new fashion in warfare: When military action is conducted in a non-combatant nation which is 'serving as a sanctuary and base for the enemy' is there a moral difference whether that military action is assassination or carpet bombing?


Good point Richard. In the Colonel's following post he points out the folly of these "democratization" wars. I'll argue they were not only foolish but increase the chances of another 7/11 type attack against us. We are the existential threat to them and we should expect a similar response to our aggression. Similar to how Americans would respond to real existential threats--not to imaginary ones.

Babak Makkinejad

BF Ali:

Another salient feature of this new war - to use your phrase - that it potentially could last forever; decades or even centuries.

Per your example of the enthno-religious war in Levant for Palestine, decades of war has not led to the end of hostilities either due to peace or the defeat of one side or the other.

FB Ali

Some of the issues raised in this post are dealt with in an article in today's NYT. Worth reading:


Charles I couldn't access the site, so asked me to post this link:



Drone attacks are a direct extension of Cheney's 1% Doctrine: if there is "a one percent chance" that a threat was real "we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response."

The twin of the 1% Doctrine is the Hollywood belief that the hero always gets his man and saves the planet. Errors and collateral damage are not part of this juvenile fantasy.

Welcome to the due process free world where gamers located in remote locations get to determine who lives and dies. Courts and judges are so 20th century...


Brigadier Ali,

Excellent post. The Drone Wars are sure to escalate.

There are problems that glossed over or never reported in the media. A youngster in Nevada piloting the drone can never know what’s happening on the ground. Although not B-52 carpet bombing, exploding 20 lb Hellfire HEAT warheads do cause collateral damage. They require secure airbases to launch and even though only practical in non-nuclear third world failed states, they nevertheless invite retaliation. The USA will eventually regret the implementation of the drone execution campaign.

The striking thing about the whole war on terror is America’s hubris. USA is busily turning over security in Iraq to the State Department and Contractors. It is as if Washington DC doesn’t bother to consider the reactions of the Iraqis when they realize that the “Jews” are not leaving but are going to occupy their country forever.

The Twisted Genius

Brigadier Ali, this is an excellent thought piece. I choose three points for comment. This new kind of war is characterized by: war without frontiers, technological innovation (drones in the present case), and America's determination to exert power globally.

War without frontiers is not a new concept, as Brigadier Ali points out. I found a definition of terrorism by Bill Clinton that captures this phenomenon. In an interview he defined terror as, "killing and robbery and coercion by people who have no state authority and go beyond national borders." Notice that killing, robbing and coercing beyond national borders with state authority is not terror under this definition. How convenient. I guess having state authority would make it COIN or today's policy flavor, responsibility to protect (R2P).

Technological innovation is obviously not new, but armed drones have given our war fighting capabilities a huge, but temporary, edge against the type of adversaries we now choose to fight. However, as others here point out, this innovation can be countered and/or copied by our adversaries. Look what was done with IEDs. Our adversaries innovate as fast or faster than we can counter-innovate. It's just a matter of time.

What makes the above two concepts most dangerous is our desire and determination to dominate the world or, at least, events in the world. This is not just the pipe dream of some neocon think tank. It is official U.S. military strategy. We seek full spectrum dominance. I hated this when it started appearing in PowerPoint presentations. All i could think of was Pinky and the Brain. Full spectrum superiority's defined in Joint Publication 1-02 (DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms) as, "The cumulative effect of dominance in the air, land, maritime, and space domains and information environment that permits the conduct of joint operations without effective opposition or prohibitive interference." On a tactical level, I find nothing wrong with this. It sounds like effective fire suppression and that's a wonderful thing. Taken as a national strategy, it is a certain road to ruin. Someday some adversary will come up with the right combination of people, ideas and hardware (Colonel John Boyd, USAF) to tangle with us in the new kind of war which we currently favor. We will then get a taste of what existential war really is about. As Richard Armstrong noted, the last time that happened was with Bobby Lee and his boys.


I'm old...but I'm finally beginning to get it. Since 1941 we've been at war with some entity. You can fill in the blanks later...Arabs,Islam, Russians,Chinese, Serbs, whatever. The governing dynamic is the Empire will continually be at war. One wants Empire....one gets the wars. I repeat...fill in the blanks regarding who/why it is against at this given point in time.

Bill H.

I don't know how many of today's generation has actually read "1984." The "war with Eastasia" was never described in any real detail, it was just background. It was what justified the powers that "Big Brother" exercised over society. It was what kept "Big Brother" in power.

FB Ali

Most of the comments on this thread have expressed concern at the future that this new kind of war opens up before us. Some have wondered whether placing limits on this new technology could perhaps prevent this. I doubt if that is possible; the genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in.

If there is any possible remedy, we must look for it in the second aspect of this warfare ─ the disregard of national frontiers. In the past states established the sanctity of their borders and sovereignty through military power and military alliances. In the last five decades or so this sanctity became increasingly dependent on an international order backed by international law. Bush dealt this basis a grievous blow, and Obama has continued the attack. Once again, sovereignty and frontiers have become dependent on military power.

The only way to avoid the dark future that this new form of warfare opens up before the world is to restore the viability of the international order and the rule of international law. As the most powerful country in the world, the United States should take the lead in this. Otherwise, it will find that its power, however greatly expanded, will not give it security.

Some comments have referred to the potential of these new machines to curtail individual liberty and privacy. Here, too, the solution lies in restoring the rule of law. Again, the US can serve as leader and example on this score.

William R. Cumming

Completely agree with General Ali's latest comment on this thread. But wisdom and leadership in very very short supply in USA for various reasons.

The Twisted Genius

Brigadier Ali,

The sanctity of international borders is under major assault. I am referring to the debate among many foreign ministers and UN ambassadors known as responsibility to protect (R2P). There are even references to it being the new COIN. The debate is being monitored over at the Zenpundit blog.


I think the only thing that will stop the wholesale adoption of R2P by those with a capability for military adventurism is a worldwide economic collapse that would make R2P unaffordable for all.


What is missing in this 'war' is American values. Just what are we fighting for - it has gone far past retribution. It's certainly not resources as we haven't gained any; nor is it security since every election there's another flurry of 'credible' threats - not to mention the 'mob' on the street.



you must have watched Newt on CSPAN. Courts? Better tow the line or else (all legal, of course).


Amen, Furrukh.


In agree that the greatest challenge the drone strikes pose is towards national sovereignty.

The increasing use of drones is inherently destabilising because it is undermining the Westphalian order, the pillar of international relations. Drone strikes make violations of national sovereignty routine. This will proliferate as other nations acquire the capability.

In essence the Obama administration is about to discard the Westphalian order, and respect for foreign national sovereignty, out of sheer expediency. They use drones, basically, because they can, the obvious consequences the precedence so set has for international law, and the predicable consequence that this behaviour will be copied, be damned.

Now is now, yesterday it ancient history, and tomorrow ... gee, that's so long away ... The Israelis act very similarly.

Before one discards the Westphalian order, one should think long and hard whether there is anything better there yet. I still don't see it.

The only thing the Obama team has to fill in for it is, naturally, perpetual global US pre-eminence. That is far from, granted, and it is short sighted to build a policy that takes that for granted. Even if all things run well, a simple event like the long awaited Earthquake in south California can change that. Just look what the Tsunami and Fukushima have done to Japan. What then? Oh never mind.

Just as short sighted, but a little more boorish, the Israelis, too, have nothing to build their current policy on than the expectation of perpetual military superiority. It is after all the only thing that allows them to pursue their rapacious policies without consequence. Now what if that isn't a given any more? Oh crap ... tomorrow so long away ...

Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, American and Israeli pre-eminence will last forever. Just write it on a prayer mill and spin it fast.

William R. Cumming

By the way an interesting little read is a new book entitled

And by the way please don't refer to UAVs on this blog because now the official DoD term is "Remotely Piloted Vehicles" as we must assume that human pilots will control the drones and not robots and/or computers. I wonder if the WINGS pinned on some will some day be just game sticks in silver.

Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

There never was any type of "sanctity of borders" that Americans somehow eroded.

Countries have disappeared: Sikhim, or Deccan, or Tibet - and US had nothing to do with those cases.

And the neutrality of Belgium was not respected in WWI, or Iran's in both WWI and WWII or Sweden’s when Germans marched through her to conquer Norway.

Only military might should or could support "sanctity" of borders.

International Law is akin to a set of agreements of convenience among Thugs that are solely driven by the principle of self-interest & aggrandizement of power. No hope there, in my opinion.

In my opinion, the drone wars are a form of war whose antecedents must be sought in the tactics of Hassan Sabbah and his agents - the Assassins.

Hassan Sabbah had assessed that he could not destroy the Seljuk state or any other state by military might. So he went on to achieve his political goals through targeted assassinations.

Likewise, Israelis and now Americans have realized that they cannot destroy the enemy states (not without use of nuclear weapons) so they have resurrected this form of war - it is the Assassin (Ismailia Shia) form of warfare on steroids.

It is amusing to me that the present owes so much to the Iranian past: 2000 years of effort to resurrect and realize, again and again, the dream of the Universal Empire of the Great King - the Persian Empire and now, again resorting to the tactics first invented on the Iranian Plateau.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad