Call of duty: drone operators in New Mexico, October 2012
Airman 1st Class Michael Shoemaker / Reuters

Despite President Barack Obama’s recent call to reduce the United States’ reliance on drones, they will likely remain his administration’s weapon of choice. Whereas President George W. Bush oversaw fewer than 50 drone strikes during his tenure, Obama has signed off on over 400 of them in the last four years, making the program the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism strategy. The drones have done their job remarkably well: by killing key leaders and denying terrorists sanctuaries in Pakistan, Yemen, and, to a lesser degree, Somalia, drones have devastated al Qaeda and associated anti-American militant groups. And they have done so at little financial cost, at no risk to U.S. forces, and with fewer civilian casualties than many alternative methods would have caused.

Critics, however, remain skeptical. They claim that drones kill thousands of innocent civilians, alienate allied governments, anger foreign publics, illegally target Americans, and set a dangerous

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  • DANIEL BYMAN is a Professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Follow him on Twitter @dbyman.
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