Robert Wright, writing for The Atlantic, feels that David Petraeus’s greatest failure came from turning the CIA into another branch of the military:
The militarization of the CIA raises various questions. For example, if the CIA is psychologically invested in a particular form of warfare–and derives part of its budget from that kind of warfare–can it be trusted to impartially assess the consequences, both positive and negative, direct and indirect?
And then there’s the transparency question. That Post piece noted concerns among some activists that “the CIA now functions as a military force beyond the accountability that the United States has historically demanded of its armed services. The CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules.” Indeed, only a few months ago, in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, the Obama administration reported (vaguely) on targeted killings in Somalia and Yemen that had been conducted by the military, but not on those conducted by the CIA.
What’s wrong with this opaqueness? For starters, you’d think that in a democracy the people would be entitled to know how exactly their tax dollars are being used to kill people–especially people in countries we’re not at war with. But there’s also a more pragmatic reason to want more transparency.
These drone strikes are a radical departure from America’s traditional use of violence in pursuit of national security. In contrast to things like invading or bombing a country as part of some well-defined and plausibly finite campaign, our drone strike program is diffuse and, by all appearances, endless. Every month, God knows how many people are killed in the name of the US in any of several countries, and God knows how many of these people were actually militants, or how many of the actual militants were actual threats to the US, or how much hatred the strikes are generating or how much of that hatred will eventually morph into anti-American terrorism. It might behoove us, before we accept this nauseating spectacle as a permanent feature of life, to fill in as many of these blanks as possible. You can’t do that in the dark.