Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward


Afghanistan has begun its fade into the history of American foreign policy, yet the aftershocks of the war on terror remain entrenched in policy decisions, with implications that could very well threaten our future security and stability. 

With the loss of permanent basing in Afghanistan, President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party’s spending bill if HBCUs don’t get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon’s deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden’s immigration woes MORE has touted an over-the-horizon counter terrorism strategy, a system built on sensors and remote systems: “We’ve developed an over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the U.S. in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.” 

There is tremendous risk in reliance on disaggregate and remote technology, primarily not understanding the full situation on the ground resulting from the degrees of separation between target and analyst. No number of high-definition screens, signals intelligence, and delay-hampered tracking across disparate environs will advance American security or redress the failures of a poorly defined counter-terror strategy from previous decades.

Biden’s decision echoes the inclinations of his predecessors. Under the Obama administration, an exponential increase in the use of remote-controlled warfare to counter extremism skyrocketed, thanks largely to the vague legal limits from the early phases of the program under President Bush. President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon’s deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE clouded oversight on remote warfare by executive order, revoking legal mandates on intelligence disclosures of civilian deaths by remote-weapon airstrikes. While safeguarding U.S. service members and avoiding international entanglement is an applaudable ambition, the risk of deepening global antagonism against the United States through this type of disassociated warfare is increased; remote-warfare employment makes lethal effects easier to perpetuate with fewer consequences of oversight — that is to say, the temptation to overuse this capability is profound while the results are questionably effective at best.

The decision to parlay American technological prowess into a replacement for boots on the ground operations carries many risks, notably, the temptation to perpetuate the insulated, haphazard use of sensors instead of definitive, real-time data that would normally drive ground operations in sensitive environments. By employing this over-the-horizon paradigm, lethal effects are now entrusted to the credibility and timeliness of data that omits that critical on-the-ground picture, exacerbated by degrees of separation inherent to sensor screens and inevitable transmission delays through distance, time and familiarity. For certain, remote-warfare technology has improved exponentially in recent decades, although…



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