If Peter Bergen is right and Ayman al-Zawahiri is the only still-living al-Qaeda leader of any consequence, then the president deserves some serious credit for getting the military focused on the main post-9/11 goal. And if Peter Bergen is right that we are 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning than to be killed by a jihadist terrorist, then I expect these drone strikes to stop. They appear to have been very effective in decimating al-Qaeda. They were certainly more effective than invading and occupying Afghanistan for eleven years. They were more effective than bombing pharmaceutical plants in Sudan or empty training camps. They were more effective than getting lost in Mesopotamia for eight years. But they come with a heavy cost, too. And they set dangerous precedents. Congress authorized “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Unless we want to go into Pakistan and destroy Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), our work here is done. If we find Zawahiri, we will kill him. Other than that, there’s no need to be doing drone strikes in Pakistan.
What about the Taliban, you ask? Well, until our last forces are out of Afghanistan, they have to protect themselves. If the Taliban tries to train in the open, they’ll be targeted. But we don’t need to be doing drone strikes in Pakistan to kill them. If they’re in Pakistan, they’re not bothering our troops. Let them stay there.
We still have bad guys in Yemen who seem intent on attacking civilian aircraft. Obviously, we’re going to continue to hunt them down. But the War on Terror is basically complete. We should begin to treat it that way. And that includes ending all this bedwetting about the people at Gitmo. If the president wins a second term, he needs to tell Congress to man-up and stop acting like cowards.