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Drones are Fine; Gitmo Might be Better

Keeping options on the table.

2:00 PM, Jan 28, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Bruce Riedel, who today defends the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, claiming that it’s a viable alternative to the current regime, said some silly things in a recent speech delivered at Tufts Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. The Tufts Daily reports:

Riedel said that unmanned U.S. aerial drones aimed at Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan add to the hostility toward the U.S. in the region, but conceded that the drones are the United States' only tool for exerting pressure on al-Qaeda. 

"I'm worried that we have become drone-addicted," he said. "These attacks are tempting because they are quick, but the cost is very hard to calculate." 

Riedel’s assertion that there are not viable alternatives to drone attacks in Pakistan is wrong. Indeed, it’s a frequent claim that’s found a home on the left, often repeated but never really defended.

Remember the Bush administration?

What the Bush administration did was try to capture the terrorists, on most occasions, instead of outright killing them. That way, once captured, the terrorists could be interrogated and the military and other intelligence outlets could gather information from people within terrorist organizations. This proved useful: Intelligence about your enemy in war shapes strategy – and, ultimately, can be the decisive factor in military victory.

What the Obama administration is doing is perfectly legal in the realm of international law and jurisprudence, and there are times when it's the ideal response to threats posed to U.S. forces, as Ken Anderson has previously explained in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, but it is not without practical problems. By relying almost solely on drones, the Obama administration is not gathering as much intelligence as it would be if it brought the bad guys in for questioning.

The Obama administration has come to rely on the drone attacks for a simple reason: they can’t figure out what to do with any detainees they might pick up on the battle field. If your primary mission is to be seen as differing in approach from the Bush administration, it’s a lot easier to just kill terrorists than it is to detain them.

Of course, were the administration to accept that the Bush administration did a better job than it wants to admit, there's an obvious solution to the non-problem Riedel focuses on: Guantanamo Bay is still open for business, and we can still capture and send the terrorists there. 

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