Are Predator Drones Hurting the U.S. Effort?

It's clear that predator drones are revolutionizing the way America fights battles: the flying robots, piloted from thousands of miles away, stand watch while soldiers sleep, kill terrorists from afar and patrol for 24 hours at a stretch. But some counterinsurgency experts say the drones are impeding the broader strategy by losing the war for hearts and minds in Pakistan.

"We need to call off the drones," testified David Kilcullen, who masterminded Iraq's surge for Gen. David Petraeus, to Congress last month. One problem is a dismal precision rate—Pakistani officials claim that as many as 50 civilians die in Predator attacks for every insurgent killed. "The moral requirement is a commitment ... not to strike unless you're sure who you're hitting," says Just and Unjust Wars author Michael Walzer. Peter Bergen, author of The Osama bin Laden I Know, also argues that drones "might fatally undermine U.S. efforts" as people on the ground feel besieged. A poll last year bore this out: 52 percent of Pakistanis blame the U.S. for rising violence; only 8 percent blame Al Qaeda. But the argument is falling on deaf ears: President Obama recently increased Predator flights, and the CIA says attacks are up 30 percent from last year.

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