Originally published in United Press International
Attacking drones, the most effective counter-terrorism tool the United States has found thus far, is a new cause celebre among progressive public intellectuals and major segments of the media.
Their arguments would deserve more of a hearing if, instead of declaring their contentions as fact, they instead coughed up some evidence to support their claims.
One argument that is repeated again and again is that killing terrorists with drones generates resentment from Pakistan to Yemen, thereby breeding many more terrorists than are killed. For example, Akbar Ahmed, a distinguished professor at American University, told the BBC on April 9 that, for "every terrorist drones kill, perhaps 100 rise as a result."
The key word is "perhaps"; Ahmed cites no data to support his contention.
Similarly, in The New York Times, Jo Becker and Scott Shane write that "Drones have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants," citing as their evidence one line Faisal Shahzad, who had tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, used in his 2010 trial seeking to justify targeting civilians.
At the same time, when HBO interviewed children who carry suicide vests, they justified their acts by the presence of foreign troops in their country and burning of Korans.
No such self-serving statements can be taken as evidence in themselves.
And Peter Bergen, a responsible and serious student of drones, quotes approvingly in The Washington Post a new book by Mark Mazzetti, who claims that the use of drone strikes "creates enemies just as it has obliterated them." Again, however, Mazzetti presents no evidence.
One may at first consider it obvious that, when American drones kill terrorists who are members of a tribe or family, other members will resent the United States. And hence if the United States would stop targeting people from the skies, that resentment would abet and ultimately vanish.
In reality, ample evidence shows that large parts of the population of several Muslim countries resent the United States for numerous and profound reasons, unrelated to drone attacks.
These Muslims consider the United States to be the "Great Satan" because it violates core religious values they hold dear; it promotes secular democratic liberal regimes; it supports women's rights; and it exports a lifestyle that devout Muslims consider hedonistic and materialistic to their countries.
These feelings, data show, are rampant in countries in which no drones attacks have occurred, were common in those countries in which the drones have been employed well before any attacks took place, and continue unabated, even when drone attacks are greatly scaled back.