Bill Clinton was accused of having a “cruise missile” foreign policy. Instead of sending ground forces after Bin Laden, he had the Air Force and Navy hit his compounds in Sudan and Afghanistan from afar. Many suspected that it was to get Monica off the front page of the New York Times. That worked out so well for America.

After 9/11, the Bush Administration began arming Predator drones. The left howled in protest at first. With the change of adminstraions, it seems more drones are going to be used in SWA:

The CIA is building what The Washington Post described yesterday as a “constellation” of bases in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Yet as a senior U.S. intelligence official who is skeptical of the strategy often reminds me, Washington’s over-reliance on drones in Pakistan’s tribal areas is a major tactical weakness. The drones, he says, are “efficient in killing leaders based in those areas, but not sufficient in dismantling al-Qaeda.”

— “US building a ‘constellation’ of drone bases“, By Bill Roggio, Long War Journal

The problem with drones, missiles and bombs is the assumption that it’s a magic bullet. In the 1970’s, the CIA’s chickens came home to roost. Investigations into the black ops and HUMINT of the Cold War showed that the CIA did many questionable things. So the focus in the 80’s and 90’s was into satellites and ELINT (and computer models). Because devices and paper models don’t bleed, don’t complain and don’t talk to the press, the CIA let thie human intelligence networks rot.

Then came Bin Laden.

After the “enhanced” interrogations, the black sites and the renditions, Al-Qaeda came apart. The drone strikes helped a great deal. But where did the information come from? What about the Northern Alliance?

The “drones” are an excellent tactic to keep al Qaeda and allied groups off balance, but their use is not a substitute for denying terrorists from physically holding ground. Despite eight years of Predator strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the Taliban remain firmly in control of the region.
J.E. Dyer of Hot Air pulls the money quote.

Information is only as good as the source. During the Vietnam war, the Air Force was tasked to find the NVA’s key infrastructure. After many recon flights and ELINT missions, they told the White House that North Vietnam didn’t have any. After LBJ yelled at them, they came up with a list of rail yards, bridges and such. That’s right, he send multi-million dollar aircraft to bomb boats and rail cars that cost at most a few thousand dollars. Instead of breaking the NVA or sending a message, the bombing instead undid his presidency.

If we target key terrorist leaders, that’s one thing. But the temptation is to view stand off weapons as substitutes for boots on the ground. Many terrorist groups are little more than a few armed thugs in caves or huts. Many hide with civilian populations just to cause collateral damage when we hit them. Dead women and children are gonna happen, that’s how terrorists ‘fight’. Mao said a guerrilla is a “fish swimming in a peasant sea.” Guess what happens when you fish with dynamite?

Special Forces, spies and yes, ground troops will always be there. The time will come when some “terrorist” group is revealed to be the pawns of a large army. One with SAM’s that shoot down our drones and crush the Special Forces sent to stop them. The NVA had lots of technical help and even outright assistance from the USSR. Bin Laden had (and his network still has) many financial donors from the Middle East and even the developed world. It takes a complete and total effort from all of the government and the nations involved. Fight to win. Messages are best sent by a diplomatic bag.

We need to remember this before we send in the drones.

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