The capacity to drop bombs on terrorists from unpiloted planes is clearly valuable and something the United States of America will want to do on occasion. But I think we need to be much, much, much more careful because this sort of thing is incredibly harmful:
An early morning drone attack Friday on a village near the Afghan border in North Waziristan killed 12 people, Pakistani security officials said. The village, Dande Darpa Khel, is part of the stronghold of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan fighter and senior Taliban member.
The missiles hit a compound near an Islamic school that Mr. Haqqani had set up, and women and children were among the dead, according to Pakistani officials, who spoke in return anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
The case against this stuff is well made in CNAS’s “Triage” report on regional strategy:
Despite these advantages, the costs of drone attacks against non-al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan outweigh the benefits and they are, on balance, harmful to U.S. and allied interests. The drone war has created a siege mentality among the Pashtun population in northwest Pakistan. This is similar to what happened in Somalia in 2005 and 2006 when similar strikes were employed against the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). While the strikes killed individual militants, public anger solidified the extremists’ power. The UIC’s popularity rose and it became more extreme […]
They point out that the missile campaign turns Pakistani opinion away from the “we and the United States are on the same side against the great threat of al-Qaeda” point of view:
Not smart. Ultimately, the government of Pakistan has the Taliban easily outgunned with or without US missile strikes. What it doesn’t necessarily have is legitimacy or the support of the Pakistani people. Actions that undermine those qualities are very harmful.