New York Times columnist Melissa Porges, in a recent article, argues that drone strikes are not an adequate tool for fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or abroad.  Her main argument is that drone attacks are ineffective because they do not allow US intelligence to get inside the heads of the enemy through interrogation. In recent years, while Guantanamo Bay remains open, the number of detainees brought in for questioning and holding have decreased drastically as the Obama administration turn increasingly to drones to combat Al Qaeda and terrorism. Borges believes that this strategy is dangerous in that it prevents the US from fully understanding Al Qaeda’s motives, operations, and execution.

The argument of Borges’ article is compelling, however, I disagree that the detaining of suspected terrorists is more effective than drone strikes. I believe that Guantanamo, water-boarding, and secret CIA prisons all marred the reputation of the Bush administration – especially in the International community, and continually raised a slew of legal and ethical questions. It seems wise that Obama would distance himself from this largely unpopular practice. Drone strikes, however, are far from a pretty solution to stopping terrorism since they create inevitable civilian casualties, and draw the ire of local populations and Governments (such as Afghanistan and Pakistan). Despite these drawbacks, drones are a decisive, fatal, and low human-cost method of fighting terrorists. While several drone strikes (such as the one which killed US-born Anwar Al Awlaki in Yemen) became controversial, the killing of combatants or civilians abroad will never, in my opinion, be as hotly contested by the American public as the deliberate and starkly anti-American use of torture to illicit information from detainees. Drones are also advantageous in that they can operate where conventional ground forces can not – and therefore keep Al Qaeda on the run at all times. Drones are far from perfect, but are the best alternative when the public will to fight is low and dangerous terrorists roam free.

– Daniel