The Legitimacy Of U.S. Drone Strikes

1899 words - 8 pages


September 11 attacks marked an unprecedented development and advancement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. Because of their technological capabilities and strategic advantages, drones have been used by the United States government as one of the main weapons in ‘war against terrorism.’ An unmanned aircraft was first used by Elmer Sperry, creator of the gyroscope, when sinking a German captured battleship, but its usage for military purposes began after 1985 (Shaw, 2012, p. 1490). As the United States initiated the use drones against Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, vast criticism sparked throughout the world questioning its legality under the international law. In this paper, I will focus on the legitimacy of targeted killing, its ambiguous lawfulness under jus ad bellum [Latin - right to war], and humanitarian problems caused in Pakistan during Bush and Obama administrations. I will conclude my paper by claiming that the current drone policy of the U.S. government is illegitimate, counterproductive, and inhumane while drones itself are extremely important against terrorist organizations. In other words, I will argue that by reforming some aspects of the drone policy and by using it in accordance to the international law, drones are important for the U.S. security.

Success & Importance

Despite the fact that drones became enormously popular after September 11 attacks during the Bush administration, its usage against Al-Qaeda and Taliban has sextupled since Barack Obama’s inauguration as the president of the United States in 2009. Although the exact amount of victims is unknown due to confidentiality from the CIA and the U.S. government, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has gathered its own data based on interviews and educated guesses. The study found that between 2004 and 2012, the United States has deployed 346 drone strikes causing approximately 2,570–3,337 deaths. Furthermore, the study revealed that civilian casualties ranged between 18 and 26 per cent of the deaths in Pakistan (Boyle, 2013). Additionally, “President Obama launched more than six times as many drone strikes as President Bush did throughout his eight years in office” (Boyle, 2013, p. 2). As President Obama stated in his speech on May 2013, drones strikes are lethal, accurate, and extremely successful against Al-Qaeda’s High-Value Targets (HVTs). As the statistics show, numerous HVTs like Sheikh Fateh al Masri, Mustafa Abu Yazid, Qari Mohammad Zafar, and Baitullah Mehsud were killed by the drones (Barnidge, 2011). Moreover, it has eliminated “more than half of the top twenty HVTs. It has done so without endangering US pilots” (Plaw & Fricker, 2012, p. 346).
The growing concern of security in the U.S. and the necessity of drone strikes became more evident when Al-Qaeda and Taliban members found safe havens in Pakistan. The situation was escalated when Pakistani government failed to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases...

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