President Donald Trump entered office in early 2017 having campaigned on an “America First” foreign policy that promised a creed of isolationism and “anti-globalism” at odds with his predecessor’s overseas military interventions and costly entanglements. “We cannot be the policemen of the world” Trump said at the first presidential debate. “We cannot protect countries all over the world.”[1] Noting the over $3 trillion spent on recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump asserted: “We’re destroying our country.”

Less than a year into Trump’s presidency, the world’s policeman is back, now armed with a Twitter account. Flying largely under the media radar, the US military is flexing its muscles around the world—and in some areas it is going on the offensive. Since Trump took office, the United States has quietly increased the number of troops in the Middle East by 33 percent and there are plans for an “enduring presence” in both Iraq and Syria.[2] More troops and yet another supposedly new strategy are being deployed for the endless war in Afghanistan. US soldiers are fanning out across an archipelago of bases in Africa to conduct what they call “train, advise and assist” missions with nearly 1,000 soldiers in Niger. In Somalia the numbers are also climbing: Troop levels are the highest since the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993. The United States has even flown the flag in Europe, as 4,000 soldiers landed in Poland to demonstrate an “iron-clad commitment” to NATO allies. Elsewhere, US support for the Saudi-UAE bombing campaign on Yemen is drawing the United States deeper into that ongoing civil war, and assistance is flowing to the Philippines’ military fight with Islamist militants.

An aggressive surge of lethal drone strikes and clandestine missions led by the military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and a reinvigorated CIA in far-flung corners of the world outside of America’s declared battlefields marks the widest departure from Trump’s ostensible isolationism. This surge signals, paradoxically perhaps, an embrace of both Obama’s drone warfare presidency and a more naked militarization of US foreign policy. In both tempo and geography, Trump’s drone blitz is on track to surpass, by many measures, that of President Obama. According to the calculations of Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko, Trump authorized 75 drone strikes in his first 74 days in office, about one strike a day on average, which represents a five-fold increase over Obama’s rate.[3] As Trump’s offensive ranges across zones of southern Arabia, the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, it is likely extending to other parts of Africa and Asia as well, further militarizing the planet.

Thus, despite Trump’s rhetoric of isolationism and alleged break with the past, current US operations resemble a fusion of George W. Bush-era “world is a battlefield” global militarization with Obama-era tools of remote warfare, with its “light footprint” and aversion to ground operations—a transactional neoconservatism for the post-imperial era.

Global Drone Surge

In one respect, President Trump has no doubt kept his word. Trump promised during the campaign to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS and it appears to be one of the few promises he has kept. Trump inherited from Obama an escalating war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but both conventional bombing and drone strikes have significantly increased under Trump as a result of his new ISIS battle plan, whose strategy Defense Secretary James Mattis defines as “annihilation tactics.” According to Newsweek, the United States under Trump has dropped a record number of bombs on the Middle East, roughly 10 percent more than under his predecessors. Trump also loosened rules of engagement that protect civilians and, unsurprisingly, civilian casualties from the US-led war against ISIS will, at this pace, double under Trump.[4]

But taking the fight to ISIS is not the same as enlarging America’s global military footprint nor is it the same as launching an aerial offensive against an expanding list of foes in an expanding list of countries. Neither scenario would have been expected from Trump’s “America First” campaign proclamations. Yet US airstrikes have surged in Afghanistan dramatically since Trump authorized 4,000 additional American troops to join the existing 11,000 troops. The US military has already dropped twice as many bombs on the Taliban and the newly formed branch of ISIS in Afghanistan than it did in all of 2016. Moreover, in the past three years, the number of military drone strikes there has also climbed, from 304 in 2015, to 376 last year, to 362 through the first eight months of Trump’s presidency. At this pace, 2017 will exceed previous yearly tallies.[5]

Outside of America’s official battlefields, Yemen has been a central target of Trump’s drone blitz. The first three drone strikes conducted under Trump targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in central Yemen, followed a few days later by the deadly and compromised JSOC raid in Yemen that left one Navy SEAL and dozens of Yemeni civilians dead. Since then, the United States has conducted over 100 airstrikes and raids against AQAP and an emergent ISIS branch in Yemen, a figure that surpasses any previous year of strikes under Obama.

Somalia has also been a major target of renewed drone strikes and clandestine operations by JSOC against both the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab and a small local branch of ISIS that has emerged in the north. In all, over 30 airstrikes have been launched against Somalia in 2017, along with a number of US military Special Operations Forces raids, including one that took the life of a Navy SEAL. That figure already eclipses the 14 strikes carried out in 2016, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism database of US military actions in Somalia.

There has been a marked increase in US drone strikes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in the second half of 2017 following the roll out of President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy, in which he vowed to “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations.”[6] A March 2 drone strike in Pakistan was the first in that country since May 2016. After a September 15 drone strike in Pakistan, the CIA declined to comment when asked if they had carried out a strike, suggesting that in fact they had. Trump has reportedly returned authority to conduct drone strikes to the CIA, which the Obama administration had limited in its second term, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo promising to make his agency more “vicious.”[7]

In Libya, the United States has renewed the bombing and drone campaign against ISIS targets that had been a central focus of Obama’s last year in office. The Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted drone strikes on an ISIS training camp in Libya in September, killing 17 militants in the first American airstrikes there since January. The United States has conducted several more drone strikes on alleged ISIS camps and targets in central Libya as part of a widening campaign.

There has also been a surge of US military operations across the expanding archipelago of outposts and drone bases that AFRICOM has set up to patrol the Sahel and Central Africa region. Following the ambush by Islamist militants that killed four Special Operations Forces soldiers in October, the Trump administration is moving closer to arming the surveillance drones that now fly over Niger and Mali in search of suspects, which would extend the drone war into new areas not previously targeted. The administration is also considering new rules that could permit AFRICOM to carry out offensive ground combat operations in North and West Africa, escalating deployments in a region that key lawmakers seem to have been only dimly aware of before the deaths of the four soldiers. The hub of these activities will be a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger that is under construction.

The Trump administration is even stepping up its drone war capabilities in East Asia: The United States has declared it will permanently station weaponized drones in South Korea and announced that it had begun deploying upgraded unmanned aircraft systems in the Philippines to assist the growing confrontation with Islamist militants there.

It is not surprising, then, that civilian casualties from US strikes are on track to double under Trump, according to the monitoring group Airwars. Their data suggests that Trump’s drone strikes have already resulted in more civilian deaths than the entirety of strikes under the Obama administration. In a Newsweek report, Yale law professor Oona Hathaway commented that, “One unusual civilian casualty event is bad luck; this looks more like a pattern.”[8] The “bottom line,” Micah Zenko tweeted in late August 2017, is that “Trump has now expanded US military presence and/or airstrikes in every combat theater he inherited from Obama.”[9]

Outsourcing War to the Generals

Trump’s unanticipated military interventionism and drone offensive across several continents does not necessarily mean that he has become, in former chief strategist Steve Bannon’s lexicon, a “globalist,” but it is a puzzling development. Rather than being the product of a grand strategy or a coherent doctrine, however, the source of this remarkable about face appears more prosaic: Trump has simply outsourced his authority as commander in chief for war making to the Pentagon and the global apparatus that conducts the “war on terrorism.”

In other words, if there is a Trump Doctrine regarding military force more generally, it amounts to “letting the generals handle it.” This laissez-faire approach to national security delegates war-making responsibilities to the phalanx of generals surrounding Trump, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general; National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, a uniformed lieutenant general in the army; Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general; and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Marine Corps general. Trump has already granted Defense Secretary Mattis and commanders on the ground the authority to raise troop levels in the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a power usually held closely by the White House, and has deferred to them in nearly every matter of policy.

Moreover, in his first five months in office, President Trump had reportedly yet to meet or speak with either his commanders in Iraq or Afghanistan even though he signed off and granted authorization for them to take actions as they see fit. “What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump said after the Air Force dropped the most powerful conventional bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan without his input. “We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done the job, as usual,” Trump said. “We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing.”[10] A similar authorization has been reported at the CIA, where CIA director Mike Pompeo claimed that, “When we’ve asked for more authorities, we’ve been given it. When we ask for more resources, we get it.”[11]

This “total authorization” has even led to the strange sight of the president distancing himself from actions he actually approved and ordered such as the Special Operations Forces raid in Yemen which claimed the life of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. “This was something that was, you know, just—they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected… And they lost Ryan.”[12]

Trump’s outsourcing of war to his national security team—to the comfort of many—may avert the risk of an impulsive leader with no military experience ordering a reckless war in response to the latest slight. But the irony is that Trump’s top military leadership are the epitome of what Bannon would term “globalists.” They are pragmatic internationalists deeply committed to the United States’ leadership role within the global alliance structure that the US military built after World War II, along with a penchant for military solutions to global problems.

Trump’s generals and others in his national security leadership are a group deeply invested in the “long war” against terrorists, extremists and instability, however coded. They see this war in terms of generations—as both global and permanent. They embrace what Micah Zenko has described as a counterterrorism ideology within the national security state whose mindset is bipartisan and transcends presidential administrations, and which “is virulent and extremist, characterized by tough-sounding clichés and wholly implausible objectives.”[13] As military historian Andrew Bacevich has critically noted, the same group of generals who oversaw the counterproductive “global war on terror” are only proposing a more muscular version of the same approach.[14]

Trump’s array of generals have another characteristic in common, which most likely attracted them to Trump but which runs counter to a neo-isolationist foreign policy. Nearly all of them have expressed public opposition to aspects of Obama’s second-term foreign policy that included an alleged hesitancy to use force or commit troops, which many allies perceived as a retreat from traditional US commitments in the world. For example, they publicly faulted Obama for setting a deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, blamed his decision to pull all US troops out of Iraq in 2011 for the rise of the ISIS, and have been critical of the White House’s sensitivity to “boots on the ground” in the anti-ISIS campaign.

Additionally, nearly all of them echo the sentiments of many senior Pentagon officials who often chafed under Obama’s centralized decision making, including Obama’s first three secretaries of defense—Robert M. Gates, Leon E. Panetta and Chuck Hagel—who all accused the administration of excessively interfering in military matters. Robert Gates, for example, claimed in his memoir that the “controlling nature of the Obama White House and the staff took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”[15]

The irony, which seems to have been lost on Trump, is that “his” generals’ views would not only have been quite compatible with a Hillary Clinton presidency, but they are more fully in line with Republican “globalist” hawks like Lindsey Graham, who came out of a meeting with Mattis about more aggressive deployments in Africa brimming with confidence. “The war is morphing,” Graham said. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; and you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”[16]

Deregulating the Global Battlefield

Trump’s global surge in drone strikes and clandestine operations is also being driven by concerted deregulation. Under the mantra of enhancing operational autonomy and flexibility, the Pentagon is, in effect, outsourcing aspects of their own war-making authority and decision making even further down the chain of command, which has opened the throttle on drone strikes and more offensive operations.

As is well known, President Obama oversaw the massive expansion and geographical reach of drone warfare as well as JSOC man hunting operations, creating what The Washington Post’s Greg Miller termed a “global apparatus for drone killing.”[17] The use of drones and Special Operations Forces aligned with Obama’s ambition to keep up the war against al-Qaeda while extricating the US military from costly ground wars in the Middle East. Shuttering the CIA’s detention program and halting transfers to Guantanamo Bay further incentivized “targeted killing” as a viable option. Nevertheless, Obama embraced the drone war with gusto. He authorized more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. He escalated the covert CIA-led drone campaign in Pakistan and opened up new drone campaigns, often led by JSOC, in Yemen, Somalia and eventually Libya and Syria by the end of his second term.[18]

Obama’s embrace of drone warfare faced mounting criticism—both within and outside the administration—that drone strikes were causing too many civilian casualties, driving terrorist recruitment and undermining support among allies. Thus, in his second term, Obama worked to impose more restrictive rules on drone strikes and kill-or-capture operations outside of war theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan, in an effort to create a more principled and pragmatic framework to govern their use.

First, Obama centralized the highly classified practice of targeted killing which, according to Greg Miller, had the effect of “transforming Bush’s ad-hoc global man hunting program into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”[19] Obama’s national security team developed a new targeting procedure called the “disposition matrix” in which the multiple drone programs and separate but overlapping kill lists of the CIA and JSOC were brought together in a single evolving database of biographies, locations and affiliated organizations. It included the preferred strategies for taking targets down, such as extradition, capture operations and drone strikes. Targets were vetted in a highly bureaucratic process among various agencies and the decision to strike a target was made during a meeting of National Security Council officials along with the president in what became colloquially known as “Terror Tuesdays.”

Second, all drone strikes and operations outside of official war zones were subjected to more restrictive rules of engagement than allowed by the law of armed conflict that governs conventional war zones, or what the administration called “areas of active hostilities.” These rules were outlined in the still largely classified Presidential Policy Guidance or PPG of 2013 that became known as the counter-terrorism “playbook” that Obama hoped would both guide and tie the hand of his successors. Among its most important rules are that cabinet officials must agree in high-level deliberations that a proposed target away from a traditional war zone poses a “continuing and imminent” threat to American national security and that there must be “near certainty” that no civilians will be harmed or killed.[20]

Finally, the Obama administration began to roll back the CIA’s quasi-military role and move control over the drone program to the Pentagon in the name of transparency and centralization, although political resistance slowed the process considerably. Once the war with ISIS began to heat up in 2015, for example, the Obama administration implemented a new hybrid model in which JSOC exclusively carried out drone strikes and the CIA helped with targeting through the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center so that the CIA was “finding and fixing” targets while JSOC would “finish” them.

Obama’s bureaucratic attempt to reign in the sprawling “war on terror” with its multiple commands and authorities, and his belated effort to create a patina of legality and accountability for drone strikes, generated resistance in many quarters, which has blossomed under Trump. Trump’s “total authorization” has allowed hawkish officials and senior military commanders to forward a wish list of plans and authorities that dilute or circumvent Obama-era rules and release the throttle on America’s immense capabilities for global strikes.

The centerpiece of reversing Obama-era restrictions has been the increasing designation of geographical zones outside of existing battlefields as “areas of active hostilities.” This move literally makes them temporary undeclared war zones where the military can launch up to six-month wars without congressional approval, and where less restrictive targeting rules apply.[21] For example, immediately upon taking office, Trump granted requests to declare three provinces in Yemen to be areas of active hostilities. In March, Trump designated large parts of Somalia as areas of active hostilities for at least 180 days in which local commanders were given the authority to carry out offensive strikes against al-Shabaab militants—even if it was not certain they posed an “ongoing and imminent threat” to American national security interests.

Through such actions, Trump’s Pentagon has largely superseded Obama’s so-called playbook. Trump’s national security advisers have also reportedly taken steps to replace Obama’s PPG with what they have called Principles, Standards and Procedures, or PSP, which gives the US military broader latitude to conduct drone strikes and covert operations outside of conventional battlefields than the PPG. Under the PSP, the military and the CIA will no longer need a high-level vetting of the targets of proposed strikes or need to show that potential targets actually pose a specific threat to Americans. The one rule that was maintained in the PSP was the PPG’s standard of “near certainty” that civilians would not be injured or killed in a strike. In sum, Trump’s new playbook authorizes a “persistent campaign of direct action” in a variety of countries against any suspected member of a group deemed a terror organization by the authorization for the use of military force that was passed by Congress in the days following September 11, 2001.

The Trump White House has also taken steps to loosen Obama-era restraints on the CIA, which would open the way for CIA strikes in Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere. Reversing Obama’s “hybrid model,” Trump authorized the CIA to resume drone strikes in Syria, and the CIA is reportedly seeking authority to conduct its own drone strikes within the conventional battlefield of Afghanistan, a first if approved. With Pompeo in charge, the agency appears to be aggressively renewing its paramilitary role, and pushing limits on other forms of covert operations outside conflict zones, including in Iran. CIA control of the drone program means the strikes will remain covert and cannot be discussed, or even publicly acknowledged, by those in the US government.

With these latest actions, the Trump administration stopped short of completely reversing Obama-era restraints, but they have moved swiftly away from them. One senior official bluntly asserts that the latest changes are intended to make much of the “bureaucracy” created by the Obama administration rules “disappear.”[22] Of course, the novelty of the new Trump-era rules regarding such strikes should not be overstated; It is at most a return to a policy that Obama created and then claimed to have ended. In essence, Trump’s approach amounts to a “state of exception” to Obama’s “state of exception”; both of which are at odds with international human rights laws and standards that should be applied outside of official war zones. As Letta Taylor of Human Rights Watch notes,

The US government has yet to make the case that such hostilities outside conventional war zones have reached the threshold and intensity of an armed conflict. Until and unless the government does so, the default legal framework within which the United States operates should be the law enforcement model of international human rights law, which in contrast to the less restrictive laws governing armed conflict only allows lethal targeting in order to protect an imminent threat to life.[23]

Nevertheless, as the Trump White House dissolves the existing bureaucracy and relinquishes civilian oversight of its lethal drone program, the United States is embarking on a slippery slope toward major diminution of civilian protections, and less accountability and transparency regarding parts of the world declared to be areas of active hostilities.

Outsourcing to the War Machine

The relentless outsourcing and deregulation of war-making authority under Trump raises all the familiar problems that go along with outsourcing and deregulation whether it is the global garment industry or the Pentagon—lack of oversight, accountability, transparency and ultimately, justice. But this development becomes particularly concerning when it brings war-making authority closer to the battlefield and to those actually pulling the trigger. Although framed as welcome liberation from alleged micro-managing and political interference in military matters, outsourcing executive power for targeted killing raises the fundamental question of who really is in charge of the global apparatus for drone killing and other lethal operations. This question is even more important when the trigger puller is a machine, or an extension of a machine.

As many critics have pointed out, drones enable a form of remote killing that may make such killing only more likely by removing the realities of war from those who pull the trigger and the various sectors of the public who allegedly authorize them. Moreover, as French philosopher Gregoire Chamayou has argued, drones change the nature of warfare from a martial dual or conflict between two sides, to a unilateral form of war as “man hunting”—a predator-prey relationship that transforms warfare into preemptive “campaigns of extrajudicial executions.”[24] Even more troubling is the way drones accelerate the distancing of late modern warfare from humans to machines by potentially taking humans out of the decision-making cycle. Like the science fiction film Terminator, the problem becomes precisely one of autonomy and how the tools of war can embody a kind of machine-like momentum of their own.

Although unmanned systems like drones have yet to become autonomous in a technical sense, a great deal of evidence suggests that the global apparatus of transnational man hunting that the United States has created since the September 11 attacks—of which drones are just one part—has itself become increasingly autonomous and machine-like in its functioning and operation. A central aspect of this man hunting form of war is its networked operational style of largely autonomous war fighting units “swarming” together to bring all nodes in the network to bear on target lists. The methodology behind this is often attributed to former JSOC commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his top intelligence officer, then-Brig. Gen. Michael Flynn. While in Iraq they introduced the concept of “F3EA” (find, fix, finish, exploit and analyze), which meant striking targets and then obtaining new data from each raid to add to the target list for future raids, often within hours of the previous one.[25] Driven by McChrystal’s central idea that an insurgency could only be defeated by a relentless tempo of operation that takes down opponents faster than they can regenerate, JSOC swarmed against opponents’ networks through accelerating kill/capture campaigns. John Nagl, a top counterinsurgency adviser, declared that the United States was creating “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine.”[26]

This is the form of war that is being unleashed under Trump across the world, whether in Yemen, Somalia, Libya or beyond. It is accomplished by labeling them “areas of active hostilities” and delegating authority to an increasingly autonomous war system that prioritizes killing adversaries faster than they can regenerate. The machine-like nature of this war is evident in the oddly agent-less language of official military spokespersons who seem to suggest that no actual decision making is even involved. For example, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, denied that there has been a “ramp-up” in activity in Somalia, saying, “There’s no particular rhythm to it, except that as they become available and as we’re able to process them and vet them, we strike them.”[27] Such sentiments are evidence of what political geographer Ian Shaw calls the “rationalized death management” that lies at the heart of US man hunting warfare.[28]

Although largely responsible for the expansion and consolidation of this form of war, President Obama took some steps towards establishing a more benevolent ghost in the machine in his second term. Under Trump, there is an increasing distance from political and, ultimately, human controls. The rapid evolution of this new way of waging war has largely escaped public scrutiny due to its secretive nature and origins as a deeply clandestine counterterrorism program. Public criticism, to the extent it has been aired, has largely focused on legitimate concerns about civilian casualties and the dangerous automation of warfare possible through these technologies, but not the form of war itself. War is taking the form of a globally expanded and increasingly autonomous policing operation intended to regulate, discipline and pacify rebellious populations in far corners of the globe, often out of sight of American public awareness. In science fiction terms, it is becoming more Minority Report than Terminator. As Gabor Rona, head of the Law and Armed Conflict Project at the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, concluded in a recent commentary on the Trump Doctrine: “Bottom line: Look for ever more death and destruction against civilians and the inevitable blowback that sends us into a downward spiral of violence, all accompanied by an increasingly robust offer of ‘alternative facts’ on civilian casualties.”[29] Although Trump still talks about “winning” such a war, this is less a war to be won than a permanent war to be administered, but the question we should increasingly ask is, by whom?


[1] “The first Trump-Clinton Presidential Debate Transcript, Annotated,” The Washington Post, September 26, 2016.
[2] John Haltiwanger, “Trump’s Secret War? US Military’s Presence in Middle East Has Grown by 33 Percent in Past Four Months,” Newsweek, November 21, 2017.
[3] Micah Zenko, “The (Not-So) Peaceful Transition of Power: Trump’s Drone Strikes Outpace Obama,” Council On Foreign Relations blog, March 2, 2017.
[4] Samuel Oakford, “Trump’s Air War Has Already Killed More than 2,000 Civilians,” Daily Beast, June 17, 2017.
[5] Eric Schmitt and Matthew Rosenberg, “C.I.A. Wants Authority to Conduct Drone Strikes in Afghanistan for the First Time,” The New York Times, September 15, 2017.
[6] “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, August 21, 2017.
[7] Aram Roston, “CIA Officer Joins NSC Staff as Agency Vows to be More ‘Vicious,’ BuzzFeed, November 13, 2017.
[8] Jason Le Miere, “Under Trump, US Military Has Allegedly Killed Over 1,000 Civilians in Iraq, Syria in March,” Newsweek, March 31, 2017.
[9] Micah Zenko, August 21, 2017, Tweet.
[10] W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, “Trump Doesn’t Micromanage the Military—But that Could Backfire,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2017.
[11] Schmitt and Rosenberg, “C.I.A. Wants Authority to Conduct Drone Strikes in Afghanistan for the First Time,” The New York Times, September 15, 2017.
[12] Abby Phillip, “Trump Passes Blame for Yemen Raid to His Generals: ‘They Lost Ryan,’” The Washington Post, February 28, 2017.
[13] Micah Zenko, “America’s Virulent, Extremist Counterterrorism Ideology,” Foreign Policy, May 21, 2015.
[14] Andrew Bacevich, “Leave It to the Generals,” The New Republic, November 8, 2017.
[15] Hennigan and Bennett, “Trump Doesn’t Micromanage the Military,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2017.
[16] Karoun Demirjian, “US Will Expand Counterterrorism Focus in Africa, Mattis tells senators,” The Washington Post, October 20, 2017.
[17] Greg Miller, “Under Obama, an Emerging Global Apparatus for Drone Killing,” The Washington Post, December 27, 2011.
[18] Jessica Purkiss and Jack Searle, “Obama’s covert drone war in numbers: Ten times more strikes than Bush,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, January 17, 2017.
[19] Greg Miller, “Plan for hunting terrorists signals US intends to keep adding names to kill lists,” The Washington Post, October 23, 2012.
[20] Charlie Savage, “US Releases Rules for Airstrike Killings of Terror Suspects,” The New York Times, August 6, 2016.
[21] Bonnie Kristian, “Trump’s Dangerous Expansion of Executive War Powers,” Politico, March 4, 2017.
[22] Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Trump Poised to Drop Some Limits on Drone Strikes and Commando Raids,” The New York Times, September 21, 2017.
[23] Letta Tayler, “How Obama’s Drones Rulebook Enabled Trump,” Human Rights Watch, September 26, 2017.
[24] Grégoire Chamayou, Trans. Janet Lloyd, A Theory of the Drone (New York: The New Press, 2014) p. 35.
[25] Steve Niva, “Disappearing Violence: JSOC and the Pentagon’s New Cartography of Networked Warfare,” Security Dialogue 44/3 (2013).
[26] “Kill/Capture,” Frontline (PBS), May 9, 2011.
[27] Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, “US Airstrike in Somalia Kills More than 100 al-Shabaab Militants,” CNN Politics, November 21, 2017.
[28] Ian G. R. Shaw, Predator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016) p. 167.
[29] Gabor Rona, “Letter to the Editor: Rules of Counterterrorism,” The New York Times, March 22, 2017.

How to cite this article:

Steve Niva "Trump’s Drone Surge," Middle East Report 283 (Summer 2017).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


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