Al Awlaki killing: Another Obama counter-terrorism success | Power & Policy

Al Awlaki killing: Another Obama counter-terrorism success

Richard A. Clarke

Richard A. Clarke

The successful strike on Al Awlaki today is yet another success in Obama’s greatly expanded counter-terrorism offensive and his use of armed UAVs as the center of that campaign. The death of the American citizen cleric is notable, too, because of the legal implications. The President, in effect, ordered the execution of an American citizen overseas, one who may not have been indicted in a US court (although he probably could have been). The legal point here is that the American citizen had joined a foreign army engaged in hostilities with the US and thus became a target for US military and intelligence activity just as if some citizen had joined the Wehrmacht in World War II.

The death will probably reduce the ability of al Qaeda to recruit in the US. Al Awlaki had proven very adept at that, even remotely over the internet. He was a key player in stimulating several “loan wolf” operations. He was not, however, a key operational player in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That group has become very active in the civil war chaos in Yemen, taking control of villages and fighting Yemeni army units. That will go on.

One way that we know that terrorism groups disappear is that their leaders are killed, as fast as they can be replaced. Obama seems to be using that tactic, combined with a less well developed attack on their ideological appeal.

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About Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, served the last three presidents as a senior White House Advisor. He has held the titles of Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs; National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism; and Special Advisor to the President for Cyber Security. Full bio >

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