The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
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JUNE 2017


In the eyes of many around the world, diplomacy has taken a back seat to military

operations in U.S. foreign policy. The drone program is a prime example.

Killer Drones and

the Militarization of

U.S. Foreign Policy


he militarization of U.S. foreign policy

certainly didn’t start with President

Donald J. Trump; in fact, it goes back

several decades. However, if Trump’s

first 100 days in office are any indica-

tion, he has no intention of slowing

down the trend.

During a single week in April, the

Trump administration fired 59 Toma-

hawk missiles into a Syrian airfield, and dropped the largest bomb

in the U.S. arsenal on suspected ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan. This

21,600-pound incendiary percussion device that had never been

used in combat—the Massive Ordinance Air Blast or MOAB, col-

loquially known as the “Mother of All Bombs”—was used in the

Achin district of Afghanistan, where Special Forces Staff Sergeant

Mark De Alencar had been killed a week earlier. (The bomb was

tested only twice, at Elgin Air Base, Florida, in 2003.)

To underscore the new administration’s preference for force

over diplomacy, the decision to experiment with the explosive

power of the mega-bomb was taken unilaterally by General John

Nicholson, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghani-

stan. In praising that decision, Pres. Trump declared that he

had given “total authorization” to the U.S. military to conduct

whatever missions they wanted, anywhere in the world—which

presumably means without consulting the interagency national

security committee.

It is also telling that Pres. Trump chose generals for two key

national security positions traditionally filled by civilians: the

Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor. Yet three

months into his administration, he has left unfilled hundreds

of senior civilian governmental positions at State, Defense and


An Increasingly Shaky Ban

While Pres. Trump has not yet enunciated a policy on the sub-

ject of political assassinations, there has so far been no indication

that he plans to change the practice of relying on drone killings

established by his recent predecessors.

Back in 1976, however, President Gerald Ford set a very dif-

ferent example when he issued his

Executive Order 11095

. This

proclaimed that “No employee of the United States government

shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”


Ann Wright spent 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army

Reserves, retiring as a colonel. She served 16 years in

the Foreign Service in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia,

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and

Mongolia, and led the small team that reopened the U.S. embassy

in Kabul in December 2001. She resigned in March 2003 in opposi-

tion to the war on Iraq, and is co-author of the book

Dissent: Voices

of Conscience

(Koa, 2008). She speaks around the world about the

militarization of U.S. foreign policy and is an active participant in

the U.S. anti-war movement.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and

do not reflect the view of the Department of State, the Depart-

ment of Defense or the U.S. government.