July 1, 2012  

In this issue: July 2012

Is it legal to use UAVs to kill suspected enemies in Pakistan and other countries where your country is not formally at war? It is a vital question in an area where the United States is facing international scrutiny and setting global precedents.

As the Obama campaign intensified the campaign of targeted killing that began under President George W. Bush, several senior government officials stepped forward to explain why the White House believes it is complying with domestic and international law. Few observers found these rationales, delivered in piecemeal fashion over the course of two years, completely satisfying.

More details arrived in a recent, much-discussed story by The New York Times. But add up all the public and anonymous statements by administration officials, says Maj. Charles G. Kels, and they contain a dangerous incoherence. An Air Force reservist and Judge Advocate General officer, Kels offers ways the White House could forge a sustainable philosophy on drone strikes.

Meanwhile, “incoherent” doesn’t begin to describe the government’s approach to teaching about Islam. Some instructors paint the religion and its associated culture as irredeemably violent, while others cry “Islamophobia” and shut down legitimate efforts to discern threats. Maj. Mark Jacobsen, an Air Force C-17 pilot and Olmstead scholar who earned a master’s degree in Jordan, says there is a third way.

Lt. Col. Dan Ward may be deployed to International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, but the Air Force acquisitions officer hasn’t stopped thinking about all the folks back home who develop weapons and gear. Most of the military’s programs are still built on rigorous requirements that spell out exactly what separates acceptable from unsatisfactory. Ward says it’s time to think more broadly about what constitutes “good,” and he offers five principles for building good stuff.

Speaking of acquisition, one naval observer says it’s not too late to change course in the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program. John Patch, a surface warfare officer-turned-associate professor at the Army War College, lays out two options that he argues would better answer U.S. combatant commanders’ increasingly urgent calls for low-end warships.

— Bradley Peniston (bradp@armedforcesjournal.com), Editor, Armed Forces Journal