Remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, have been the centerpiece of America's counterterrorism toolkit since the start of the Obama presidency, and the benefits have been clear. Their use has significantly weakened al Qaeda and the Taliban while keeping American troops out of harm's way. But critics of drone strikes argue that the short-term gains do not outweigh the long-term consequences-among them, radicalization of a public outraged over civilian deaths. Is our drone program hurting, or helping, in the fight against terrorism?
Dennis Blair was Director of National Intelligence from January 2009 to May 2010, leading sixteen national intelligence agencies and administering a budget of $50 billion. From 2003 to 2006, he was the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Defense Analyses. During his 34-year Navy career, Admiral Blair served as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, served on guided missile destroyers in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, and commanded the Kitty Hawk Battle Group. Ashore, he served as Director of the Joint Staff and held budget and policy positions on the National Security Council. Blair is a member of the Energy Security Leadership Council of Securing America's Future Energy and of the Aspen Homeland Security Council. His latest book is Military Engagement: Influencing Armed Forces Worldwide to Support Democratic Transitions (2013).
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist based in Lahore is author of three books including the best sellers Taliban and most recently Jihad. He has covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia for the past 25 years and writes for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Daily Telegraph, and The Wall Street Journal.
Norton ("Norty") Schwartz retired as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force (CSAF) in 2012, after serving for over 39 years in the Air Force. Schwartz began his service as a pilot with the airlift out of Vietnam in 1975. He helped lead a joint special operations task force during the Gulf War in 1991 and served as the strategic planner for the Air Force, the second-in-command of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the senior operations officer for the U.S. Armed Forces. He was head of U.S. Transportation Command, and was appointed CSAF in 2008. Schwartz made a number of innovations as Chief, including shifting emphasis from traditional aircraft to remotely piloted vehicle missions, strengthening execution and oversight of nuclear deterrence activities, as well as a range of still classified efforts. Schwartz is the president and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.
John Kael Weston
John Kael Weston represented the United States for over a decade as a State Department official and political adviser. Prior to his war-time service-seven consecutive years in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003-2010) alongside U.S. Marines and soldiers in Fallujah, Khost, Sadr City, and Helmand-Weston led American efforts in the UN Security Council to freeze and block al Qaida-linked assets. Washington acknowledged his multi-year service in Fallujah with the marines by awarding him one of its highest honors, the Secretary of State's Medal for Heroism. He has worked closely with a dozen general officers, one-star to four-star in rank. Since leaving government service in 2010, Weston has been a regular contributor to The Daily Beast. He is writing a book on his experience in both wars, including a section on drone warfare, scheduled to be published by Knopf in 2014.
Former State Department political adviser John Kael Weston and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair debate the merits and the drawbacks of the U.S. drone program, including its potential for collateral damage in civilian areas and its support of troops on the ground.
John Kael Weston, a former State Dept. adviser to the U.S. Marines, and journalist Ahmed Rashid tell General Norton Schwartz that drones are far from diplomatic and hurt forces on the ground in the Middle East.