Drone Killings: Obama Trying To Lock-in the Policy for Future Administrations
October 24, 2012 • 11:19PM

Obama's "disposition matrix," a secretly-crafted killing list, is now the centerpiece of Obama's counter-insurgency policy, and the killing operations are likely to be extended at least another decade, the Washington Post reports today, citing unnamed senior Obama Administration officials.

The Post notes that, before 2001, the U.S. "recoiled at the idea of targetting killing," but now it is now so routine that the Obama Administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it, for future administrations.

This year, the White House scrapped a system in which the Pentagon and the National Security Council had overlapping roles in scrutinizing the names being added to U.S. target lists. Now the system functions like a funnel, starting with input from half a dozen agencies, and narrowing through layers of review until proposed revisions are laid on Brennan's desk, and subsequently presented to the President, the Wapo said. Video-conference calls that were previously convened by Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been discontinued.

As a result of this development, the CIA, under Gen. David Petraeus, has become virtually a paramilitary outfit, running its fleet of armed drones and foregoing its emphasis on intelligence gathering.

Obama's kill list has no end. In one instance, Michael Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Mullen told White House and counter-terrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a top 20 list? According to Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, at least 2,300 Pakistanis have been killed by drone-fired missiles.

The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, then the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left, and would be able to wind down the drone campaign. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.

Although primarily a public-relations promotion for the Obama killing-spree, the Post does note some dissension among counter-terrorism experts, who say that the reliance on targetted killing is self-perpetuating, yielding short-term results that obscure the long-term costs. "When you rely on a particular tactic, it starts to become the core of your strategy — you see the puff of smoke, and he's gone," said Paul Pillar, a former deputy director of the CIA's counterterrorism center. "When we institutionalize certain things, including targeted killing, it does cross a threshold that makes it harder to cross back" — which is, of course, Killer-Obama's objective.

Astoundingly, the lengthy Post puff piece, advertized as the first in a series, scarcely mentions civilian casualties and the wide-spread anti-U.S. hostility generated by the drone strikes, which are regarded by competent professionals as generally creating more enemies than they eliminate.