Advantage 1: Terrorism! Wmd terrorism is feasible and dangerous

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Advantage 1: Terrorism!

WMD terrorism is feasible and dangerous

Bunn, et al, 10/2/13 [Bunn, Matthew, Valentin Kuznetsov, Martin B. Malin, Yuri Morozov, Simon Saradzhyan, William H. Tobey, Viktor I. Yesin, and Pavel S. Zolotarev. "Steps to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism." Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, October 2, 2013, Matthew Bunn. Professor of the Practice of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School andCo-Principal Investigator of Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. • Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov (retired Russian Navy). Senior research fellow at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Senior Military Representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense to NATO from 2002 to 2008. • Martin Malin. Executive Director of the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. • Colonel Yuri Morozov (retired Russian Armed Forces). Professor of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences and senior research fellow at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, chief of department at the Center for Military-Strategic Studies at the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces from 1995 to 2000. • Simon Saradzhyan. Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Moscow-based defense and security expert and writer from 1993 to 2008. • William Tobey. Senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and director of the U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration from 2006 to 2009. • Colonel General Viktor Yesin (retired Russian Armed Forces). Leading research fellow at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and advisor to commander of the Strategic Missile Forces of Russia, chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces from 1994 to 1996. • Major General Pavel Zolotarev (retired Russian Armed Forces). Deputy director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the Information and Analysis Center of the Russian Ministry of Defense from1993 to 1997, section head - deputy chief of staff of the Defense Council of Russia from 1997 to 1998.]
I. Introduction In 2011, Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies published “The U.S. – Russia Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism.” The assessment analyzed the means, motives, and access of would-be nuclear terrorists, and concluded that the threat of nuclear terrorism is urgent and real. The Washington and Seoul Nuclear Security Summits in 2010 and 2012 established and demonstrated a consensus among political leaders from around the world that nuclear terrorism poses a serious threat to the peace, security, and prosperity of our planet. For any country, a terrorist attack with a nuclear device would be an immediate and catastrophic disaster, and the negative effects would reverberate around the world far beyond the location and moment of the detonation. Preventing a nuclear terrorist attack requires international cooperation to secure nuclear materials, especially among those states producing nuclear materials and weapons. As the world’s two greatest nuclear powers, the United States and Russia have the greatest experience and capabilities in securing nuclear materials and plants and, therefore, share a special responsibility to lead international efforts to prevent terrorists from seizing such materials and plants. The depth of convergence between U.S. and Russian vital national interests on the issue of nuclear security is best illustrated by the fact that bilateral cooperation on this issue has continued uninterrupted for more than two decades, even when relations between the two countries occasionally became frosty, as in the aftermath of the August 2008 war in Georgia. Russia and the United States have strong incentives to forge a close and trusting partnership to prevent nuclear terrorism and have made enormous progress in securing fissile material both at home and in partnership with other countries. However, to meet the evolving threat posed by those individuals intent upon using nuclear weapons for terrorist purposes, the United States and Russia need to deepen and broaden their cooperation. The 2011 “U.S. - Russia Joint Threat Assessment” offered both specific conclusions about the nature of the threat and general observations about how it might be addressed. This report builds on that foundation and analyzes the existing framework for action, cites gaps and deficiencies, and makes specific recommendations for improvement. “The U.S. – Russia Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism” (The 2011 report executive summary): • Nuclear terrorism is a real and urgent threat. Urgent actions are required to reduce the risk. The risk is driven by the rise of terrorists who seek to inflict unlimited damage, many of whom have sought justification for their plans in radical interpretations of Islam; by the spread of information about the decades-old technology of nuclear weapons; by the increased availability of weapons-usable nuclear materials; and by globalization, which makes it easier to move people, technologies, and materials across the world. Making a crude nuclear bomb would not be easy, but is potentially within the capabilities of a technically sophisticated terrorist group, as numerous government studies have confirmed. Detonating a stolen nuclear weapon would likely be difficult for terrorists to accomplish, if the weapon was equipped with modern technical safeguards (such as the electronic locks known as Permissive Action Links, or PALs). Terrorists could, however, cut open a stolen nuclear weapon and make use of its nuclear material for a bomb of their own. • The nuclear material for a bomb is small and difficult to detect, making it a major challenge to stop nuclear smuggling or to recover nuclear material after it has been stolen. Hence, a primary focus in reducing the risk must be to keep nuclear material and nuclear weapons from being stolen by continually improving their security, as agreed at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010. • Al-Qaeda has sought nuclear weapons for almost two decades. The group has repeatedly attempted to purchase stolen nuclear material or nuclear weapons, and has repeatedly attempted to recruit nuclear expertise. Al-Qaeda reportedly conducted tests of conventional explosives for its nuclear program in the desert in Afghanistan. The group’s nuclear ambitions continued after its dispersal following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Recent writings from top al-Qaeda leadership are focused on justifying the mass slaughter of civilians, including the use of weapons of mass destruction, and are in all likelihood intended to provide a formal religious justification for nuclear use. While there are significant gaps in coverage of the group’s activities, al-Qaeda appears to have been frustrated thus far in acquiring a nuclear capability; it is unclear whether the the group has acquired weapons-usable nuclear material or the expertise needed to make such material into a bomb. Furthermore, pressure from a broad range of counter-terrorist actions probably has reduced the group’s ability to manage large, complex projects, but has not eliminated the danger. However, there is no sign the group has abandoned its nuclear ambitions. On the contrary, leadership statements as recently as 2008 indicate that the intention to acquire and use nuclear weapons is as strong as ever.

Nuclear war

Barrett et al 13—PhD in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, Fellow in the RAND Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows Program, and Director of Research at Global Catastrophic Risk Institute—AND Seth Baum, PhD in Geography from Pennsylvania State University, Research Scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, and Executive Director of Global Catastrophic Risk Institute—AND Kelly Hostetler, BS in Political Science from Columbia and Research Assistant at Global Catastrophic Risk Institute (Anthony, 24 June 2013, “Analyzing and Reducing the Risks of Inadvertent Nuclear War Between the United States and Russia,” Science & Global Security: The Technical Basis for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation Initiatives, Volume 21, Issue 2, Taylor & Francis)
War involving significant fractions of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which are by far the largest of any nations, could have globally catastrophic effects such as severely reducing food production for years, 1 potentially leading to collapse of modern civilization worldwide, and even the extinction of humanity. 2 Nuclear war between the United States and Russia could occur by various routes, including accidental or unauthorized launch; deliberate first attack by one nation; and inadvertent attack. In an accidental or unauthorized launch or detonation, system safeguards or procedures to maintain control over nuclear weapons fail in such a way that a nuclear weapon or missile launches or explodes without direction from leaders. In a deliberate first attack, the attacking nation decides to attack based on accurate information about the state of affairs. In an inadvertent attack, the attacking nation mistakenly concludes that it is under attack and launches nuclear weapons in what it believes is a counterattack. 3 (Brinkmanship strategies incorporate elements of all of the above, in that they involve intentional manipulation of risks from otherwise accidental or inadvertent launches. 4 ) Over the years, nuclear strategy was aimed primarily at minimizing risks of intentional attack through development of deterrence capabilities, and numerous measures also were taken to reduce probabilities of accidents, unauthorized attack, and inadvertent war. For purposes of deterrence, both U.S. and Soviet/Russian forces have maintained significant capabilities to have some forces survive a first attack by the other side and to launch a subsequent counter-attack. However, concerns about the extreme disruptions that a first attack would cause in the other side's forces and command-and-control capabilities led to both sides’ development of capabilities to detect a first attack and launch a counter-attack before suffering damage from the first attack. 5 Many people believe that with the end of the Cold War and with improved relations between the United States and Russia, the risk of East-West nuclear war was significantly reduced. 6 However, it also has been argued that inadvertent nuclear war between the United States and Russia has continued to present a substantial risk. 7 While the United States and Russia are not actively threatening each other with war, they have remained ready to launch nuclear missiles in response to indications of attack. 8 False indicators of nuclear attack could be caused in several ways. First, a wide range of events have already been mistakenly interpreted as indicators of attack, including weather phenomena, a faulty computer chip, wild animal activity, and control-room training tapes loaded at the wrong time. 9 Second, terrorist groups or other actors might cause attacks on either the United States or Russia that resemble some kind of nuclear attack by the other nation by actions such as exploding a stolen or improvised nuclear bomb, 10 especially if such an event occurs during a crisis between the United States and Russia. 11 A variety of nuclear terrorism scenarios are possible. 12 Al Qaeda has sought to obtain or construct nuclear weapons and to use them against the United States. 13 Other methods could involve attempts to circumvent nuclear weapon launch control safeguards or exploit holes in their security. 14 It has long been argued that the probability of inadvertent nuclear war is significantly higher during U.S.–Russian crisis conditions, 15 with the Cuban Missile Crisis being a prime historical example. It is possible that U.S.–Russian relations will significantly deteriorate in the future, increasing nuclear tensions. There are a variety of ways for a third party to raise tensions between the United States and Russia, making one or both nations more likely to misinterpret events as attacks. 16

Public and allied backlash will destroy effective drone use—the plan is key middle ground

Zenko, 13 [Micah Zenko is the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Previously, he worked for five years at the Harvard Kennedy School and in Washington, DC, at the Brookings Institution, Congressional Research Service, and State Department's Office of Policy Planning, Council Special Report No. 65, January 2013, “U.S. Drone Strike Policies”,‎]
In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, President Obama declared: “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. Even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war.”63 Under President Obama drone strikes have expanded and intensified, and they will remain a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations for at least another decade, according to U.S. officials.64 But much as the Bush administration was compelled to reform its controversial coun- terterrorism practices, it is likely that the United States will ultimately be forced by domestic and international pressure to scale back its drone strike policies. The Obama administration can preempt this pressure by clearly articulating that the rules that govern its drone strikes, like all uses of military force, are based in the laws of armed conflict and inter- national humanitarian law; by engaging with emerging drone powers; and, most important, by matching practice with its stated policy by limiting drone strikes to those individuals it claims are being targeted (which would reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties since the total number of strikes would significantly decrease). The choice the United States faces is not between unfettered drone use and sacrificing freedom of action, but between drone policy reforms by design or drone policy reforms by default. Recent history demonstrates that domestic political pressure could severely limit drone strikes in ways that the CIA or JSOC have not anticipated. In support of its counterterrorism strategy, the Bush administration engaged in the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects to third countries, the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, and warrantless wiretapping. Although the Bush administration defended its policies as critical to protecting the U.S. homeland against terrorist attacks, unprecedented domestic political pressure led to significant reforms or termination. Compared to Bush-era counterterrorism policies, drone strikes are vulnerable to similar—albeit still largely untapped—moral outrage, and they are even more susceptible to political constraints because they occur in plain sight. Indeed, a negative trend in U.S. public opinion on drones is already apparent. Between February and June 2012, U.S. support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists fell from 83 per- cent to 62 percent—which represents less U.S. support than enhanced interrogation techniques maintained in the mid-2000s.65 Finally, U.S. drone strikes are also widely opposed by the citizens of important allies, emerging powers, and the local populations in states where strikes occur.66 States polled reveal overwhelming opposition to U.S. drone strikes: Greece (90 percent), Egypt (89 percent), Turkey (81 percent), Spain (76 percent), Brazil (76 percent), Japan (75 percent), and Pakistan (83 percent).67 This is significant because the United States cannot conduct drone strikes in the most critical corners of the world by itself. Drone strikes require the tacit or overt support of host states or neighbors. If such states decided not to cooperate—or to actively resist—U.S. drone strikes, their effectiveness would be immediately and sharply reduced, and the likelihood of civilian casualties would increase. This danger is not hypothetical. In 2007, the Ethiopian government terminated its U.S. military presence after public revelations that U.S. AC-130 gun- ships were launching attacks from Ethiopia into Somalia. Similarly, in late 2011, Pakistan evicted all U.S. military and intelligence drones, forcing the United States to completely rely on Afghanistan to serve as a staging ground for drone strikes in Pakistan. The United States could attempt to lessen the need for tacit host-state support by making signifi- cant investments in armed drones that can be flown off U.S. Navy ships, conducting electronic warfare or missile attacks on air defenses, allow- ing downed drones to not be recovered and potentially transferred to China or Russia, and losing access to the human intelligence networks on the ground that are critical for identifying targets. According to U.S. diplomats and military officials, active resis- tance—such as the Pakistani army shooting down U.S. armed drones— is a legitimate concern. In this case, the United States would need to either end drone sorties or escalate U.S. military involvement by attack- ing Pakistani radar and antiaircraft sites, thus increasing the likelihood of civilian casualties.68 Beyond where drone strikes currently take place, political pressure could severely limit options for new U.S. drone bases. For example, the Obama administration is debating deploying armed drones to attack al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa, which would likely require access to a new airbase in the region. To some extent, anger at U.S. sovereignty violations is an inevitable and necessary trade-off when conducting drone strikes. Nevertheless, in each of these cases, domestic anger would partially or fully abate if the United States modified its drone policy in the ways suggested below.

Credible threat of legal backlash stifles even defensible drone use

Goldsmith, 12 [Jack Goldsmith, Harvard Law School Professor, focus on national security law, presidential power, cybersecurity, and conflict of laws, Former Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, and Special Counsel to the Department of Defense, Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law, March 2012, Power and Constraint, P. 199-201]

For the GTMO Bar and its cousin NGOs and activists, however, the al-Aulaqi lawsuit, like other lawsuits on different issues, was merely an early battle in a long war over the legitimacy of U.S. targeting practicesa war that will take place not just in the United States, but in other countries as well. When the CCR failed to achieve what it viewed as adequate accountability for Bush administration officials in the United States in connection with interrogation and detention practices, it started pursuing, and continues to pursue, lawsuits and prosecutions against U.S. officials in Spain, Germany, and other European countries. "You look for every niche you can when you can take on the issues that you think are important," said Michael Ratner, explaining the CCR's strategy for pursuing lawsuits in Europe. Clive Stafford Smith, a former CCR attorney who was instrumental in its early GTMO victories and who now leads the British advocacy organization Reprieve, is using this strategy in the targeted killing context. "There are endless ways in which the courts in Britain, the courts in America, the international Pakistani courts can get involved" in scrutinizing U.S. targeting killing practices, he argues. "It's going to be the next 'Guantanamo Bay' issue."' Working in a global network of NGO activists, Stafford Smith has begun a process in Pakistan to seek the arrest of former CIA lawyer John Rizzo in connection with drone strikes in Pakistan, and he is planning more lawsuits in the United States and elsewhere against drone operators." "The crucial court here is the court of public opinion," he said, explaining why the lawsuits are important even if he loses. His efforts are backed by a growing web of proclamations in the United Nations, foreign capitals, the press, and the academy that U.S. drone practices are unlawful. What American University law professor Ken Anderson has described as the "international legal-media-academic-NGO-international organization-global opinion complex" is hard at work to stigmatize drones and those who support and operate them." This strategy is having an impact. The slew of lawsuits in the United States and threatened prosecutions in Europe against Bush administration officials imposes reputational, emotional, and financial costs on them that help to promote the human rights groups' ideological goals, even if courts never actually rule against the officials. By design, these suits also give pause to current officials who are considering controversial actions for fear that the same thing might later happen to them. This effect is starting to be felt with drones. Several Obama administration officials have told me that they worry targeted killings will be seen in the future (as Stafford Smith predicts) as their administration's GTMO. The attempted judicial action against Rizzo, the earlier lawsuits against top CIA officials in Pakistan and elsewhere, and the louder and louder proclamations of illegality around the world all of which have gained momentum after al-Aulaqi's killing—are also having an impact. These actions are rallying cries for protest and political pushback in the countries where the drone strikes take place. And they lead CIA operators to worry about legal exposure before becoming involved in the Agency's drone program." We don't know yet whether these forces have affected actual targeting practices and related tactics. But they induce the officials involved to take more caution. And it is only a matter of time, if it has not happened already, before they lead the U.S. government to forgo lawful targeted killing actions otherwise deemed to be in the interest of U.S. national security.

Also, allied cooperation’s key to effective drone use

Zenko, 13 [Micah Zenko is the Douglas Dillon fellow with the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, Newsday, January 30, 2013, "Zenko: Why we can't just drone Algeria",]
CNN should not have been surprised. Neither the Bush nor Obama administrations received blanket permission to transit Algerian airspace with surveillance planes or drones; instead, they received authorization only on a case-by-case basis and with advance notice. According to Washington Post journalist Craig Whitlock, the U.S. military relies on a fleet of civilian-looking unarmed aircraft to spy on suspected Islamist groups in North Africa, because they are less conspicuous - and therefore less politically sensitive for host nations - than drones. Moreover, even if the United States received flyover rights for armed drones, it has been unable to secure a base in southern Europe or northern Africa from which it would be permitted to conduct drone strikes; and presently, U.S. armed drones cannot be launched and recovered from naval platforms. According to Hollywood movies or television dramas, with its immense intelligence collection and military strike capabilities, the United States can locate, track, and kill anyone in the world. This misperception is continually reinvigorated by the White House's, the CIA's, and the Pentagon's close cooperation with movie and television studios. For example, several years before the CIA even started conducting non-battlefield drone strikes, it was recommending the tactic as a plotline in the short-lived (2001-2003) drama "The Agency." As the show's writer and producer later revealed: "The Hellfire missile thing, they suggested that. I didn't come up with this stuff. I think they were doing a public opinion poll by virtue of giving me some good ideas." Similarly, as of November there were at least 10 movies about the Navy SEALs in production or in theaters, which included so much support from the Pentagon that one film even starred active-duty SEALs. The Obama administration's lack of a military response in Algeria reflects how sovereign states routinely constrain U.S. intelligence and military activities. As the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Air Force Operations and the Law guidebook states: "The unauthorized or improper entry of foreign aircraft into a state's national airspace is a violation of that state's sovereignty. . . . Except for overflight of international straits and archipelagic sea lanes, all nations have complete discretion in regulating or prohibiting flights within their national airspace." Though not sexy and little reported, deploying CIA drones or special operations forces requires constant behind-the-scenes diplomacy: with very rare exceptions - like the Bin Laden raid - the U.S. military follows the rules of the world's other 194 sovereign, independent states. These rules come in many forms. For example, basing rights agreements can limit the number of civilian, military and contractor personnel at an airbase or post; what access they have to the electromagnetic spectrum; what types of aircraft they can fly; how many sorties they can conduct per day; when those sorties can occur and how long they can last; whether the aircraft can drop bombs on another country and what sort of bombs; and whether they can use lethal force in self-defense. When the United States led the enforcement of the northern no-fly zone over Iraq from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey from 1991 to 2003, a Turkish military official at the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher was always on board U.S. Air Force AWACS planes, monitoring the airspace to assure that the United States did not violate its highly restrictive basing agreement. As Algeria is doing presently, the denial or approval of overflight rights is a powerful tool that states can impose on the United States. These include where U.S. air assets can enter and exit another state, what flight path they may take, how high they must fly, what type of planes can be included in the force package, and what sort of missions they can execute. In addition, these constraints include what is called shutter control, or the limits to when and how a transiting aircraft can collect information. For example, U.S. drones that currently fly out of the civilian airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, to Somalia, are restricted in their collection activities over Ethiopia's Ogaden region, where the government has conducted an intermittent counterinsurgency against the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Stakeholders care about the aff’s standard—key to effective coop

Kris, 11 [David, Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from March 2009 to March 2011, 6/15/2011, Law Enforcement as a Counterterrorism Tool,]
On the other side of the balance, certainly most of our friends in Europe, and indeed in many countries around the world (as well as many people in this country), accept only a law enforcement response and reject a military response to terrorism, at least outside of theaters of active armed conflict.76 As a result, some of those countries will restrict their cooperation with us unless we are using law enforcement methods. Gaining cooperation from other countries can help us win the war – these countries can share intelligence, provide witnesses and evidence, and transfer terrorists to us. Where a foreign country will not give us a terrorist (or information needed to neutralize a terrorist) for anything but a criminal prosecution, we obviously should pursue the prosecution rather than letting the terrorist go free. This does not subordinate U.S. national interest to some global test of legitimacy; it simply reflects a pragmatic approach to winning the war. If we want the help of our allies, we need to work with them.77 More generally, we need to recognize the practical impact of our treatment of the enemy and the perception of that treatment. This war is not a classic battle over land or resources, but is fundamentally a conflict of values and ways of life.78 Demonstrating that we live up to our values, thus drawing stark contrasts with the adversary, is essential to ensuring victory. When our enemy is seen in its true colors – lawless, ruthless, merciless – it loses support worldwide. For example, in Iraq, al Qaeda’s random and widespread violence against civilians eventually helped mobilize the population against the insurgents.79 On the other hand, when our actions or policies provoke questions about whether we are committed to the rule of law and our other values, we risk losing some of our moral authority. This makes it harder to gain cooperation from our allies and easier for the terrorists to find new recruits. This is not simply abstract philosophy. It is an important reality in our military’s effort to defeat the enemy in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. As the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency field manual states, “to establish legitimacy, commanders transition security activities from combat operations to law enforcement as quickly as feasible. When insurgents are seen as criminals, they lose public support.”80 Adherence to the rule of law is central to this approach: “The presence of the rule of law is a major factor in assuring voluntary acceptance of a government’s authority and therefore its legitimacy. A government’s respect for preexisting and impersonal legal rules can provide the key to gaining widespread enduring societal support. Such respect for rules – ideally ones recorded in a constitution and in laws adopted through a credible, democratic process – is the essence of the rule of law. As such, it is a powerful potential tool for counterinsurgents.”81 Indeed, the U.S. military has been implementing such a transition to civilian law enforcement in Iraq, where detentions and prosecutions of insurgents are now principally processed through the domestic criminal justice system,82 and we are moving in that direction in Afghanistan, where transfer of detention and prosecution responsibilities to Afghan civilian authorities is our goal.83 I think these are principles that are well worth keeping in mind as we think about the impact of employing different tools in the context of our conflict with al Qaeda. It would not only be ironic, but also operationally counterproductive, if our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan rely increasingly on law enforcement tools to detain terrorists, even in areas of active hostilities, while we abandon those tools here in the United States.84

Drone use prevents planning and executing terrorist attacks

Johnston 12 (Patrick B. Johnston is an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution. He is the author of "Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns," published in International Security (Spring 2012)., 8/22/2012, "Drone Strikes Keep Pressure on al-Qaida",
Should the U.S. continue to strike at al-Qaida's leadership with drone attacks? A recent poll shows that while most Americans approve of drone strikes, in 17 out of 20 countries, more than half of those surveyed disapprove of them. My study of leadership decapitation in 90 counter-insurgencies since the 1970s shows that when militant leaders are captured or killed militant attacks decrease, terrorist campaigns end sooner, and their outcomes tend to favor the government or third-party country, not the militants. Those opposed to drone strikes often cite the June 2009 one that targeted Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud at a funeral in the Tribal Areas. That strike reportedly killed 60 civilians attending the funeral, but not Mehsud. He was killed later by another drone strike in August 2009. His successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, developed a relationship with the foiled Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who cited drone strikes as a key motivation for his May 2010 attempted attack. Compared to manned aircraft, drones have some advantages as counter-insurgency tools, such as lower costs, longer endurance and the lack of a pilot to place in harm's way and risk of capture. These characteristics can enable a more deliberative targeting process that serves to minimize unintentional casualties. But the weapons employed by drones are usually identical to those used via manned aircraft and can still kill civilians—creating enmity that breeds more terrorists. Yet many insurgents and terrorists have been taken off the battlefield by U.S. drones and special-operations forces. Besides Mehsud, the list includes Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; al-Qaida deputy leader Abu Yahya al-Li-bi; and, of course, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Given that list, it is possible that the drone program has prevented numerous attacks by their potential followers, like Shazad. What does the removal of al-Qaida leadership mean for U.S. national security? Though many in al-Qaida's senior leadership cadre remain, the historical record suggests that "decapitation" will likely weaken the organization and could cripple its ability to conduct major attacks on the U.S. homeland. Killing terrorist leaders is not necessarily a knockout blow, but can make it harder for terrorists to attack the U.S. Members of al-Qaida's central leadership, once safely amassed in northwestern Pakistan while America shifted its focus to Iraq, have been killed, captured, forced underground or scattered to various locations with little ability to communicate or move securely. Recently declassified correspondence seized in the bin Laden raid shows that the relentless pressure from the drone campaign on al-Qaida in Pakistan led bin Laden to advise al-Qaida operatives to leave Pakistan's Tribal Areas as no longer safe. Bin Laden's letters show that U.S. counterterrorism actions, which had forced him into self-imposed exile, had made running the organization not only more risky, but also more difficult. As al-Qaida members trickle out of Pakistan and seek sanctuary elsewhere, the U.S. military is ramping up its counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen, while continuing its drone campaign in Pakistan. Despite its controversial nature, the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy has demonstrated a degree of effectiveness. The Obama administration is committed to reducing the size of the U.S. military's footprint overseas by relying on drones, special operations forces, and other intelligence capabilities. These methods have made it more difficult for al-Qaida remnants to reconstitute a new safe haven, as Osama bin Laden did in Afghanistan in 1996, after his ouster from Sudan.

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