Drones Strikes as a Form of the United States Counter Terrorism

There is a boy playing soccer in the front quarters of his house, in a quiet village of Pakistan. The boy is about nine or ten years old, of average size, pretending to be the next world super star. He jukes around the yard with the ball close at his feet. He makes eye contact with the upper left corner of the wooden goal post he and his brother had built together, and shoots. Then there is an explosion. The next day, a boy of the same age is getting ready for school in his middle class, American house somewhere in the suburbs of some American city.

He looks at the television news as he is eating breakfast to find that the United States military had blown up a house in Pakistan.

The news anchor goes on to say, “The DoD has believed to have killed an Al-Qaeda militant official yesterday with a drone strike. The strike is believed to have killed the official with minimal collateral damage.

It was known that the officials son was home, however we have not received word on the status of the boy”. Unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones, have quickly become the face and the future of the United States counter terrorism policy.

The United States has taken a strong grip on the use of drones in regards to counter terrorism and eliminating the risk of U.S. military fatalities. The U.S. policy has been attempting to use these drone strikes to put pressure on Al-Qaeda groups to feel unable to conduct or plan any terrorist attacks, hopefully leading to a decrease in terrorist threats.

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Mecah Zenko, author of Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies, points out the main objective that the Obama administration has for drone strikes. Zenko writes: The articulated objective of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy is to destroy and eliminate al-Qaeda from “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, and other areas,” according to White House senior counter- terrorism adviser John Brennan. In a narrow military sense, drone strikes have proven effective in achieving their initial objective: killing suspected “high-value” al-Qaeda leaders.

In this sense, the drone program has been a huge success with killing its targets and achieving the missions. The drone strikes allow military men and women to be out of harms way, however still carry out their mission and kill terrorists. Nonetheless, men and women sign up to be in the military to help fight for our country knowingly in harms way, however this argument will be assessed later.

Besides that argument, Zenko goes on to back up the drone program by saying, “President Obama boasted, ‘twenty-two out of thirty top al-Qaeda leaders [have] been taken off the battlefield’—all but Osama bin Laden via drone strikes” (9). Accordingly, the issue of drone strikes is not whether or not we are hitting our targets. The ethical as well as legal issue at hand is whether or not these men are guilty without trial and deserve to die as well as the issue of collateral damage.

Collateral damage is defined as the injury or death of any persons of innocence or not in the military as a result of fighting a war. Unfortunately, the history of drone strikes has included many civilian deaths. Errors and mistakes have been an inevitable struggle when it comes to identifying the person(s) of interest for the U.S. military. Michael J. Boyle, author of The Costs and Consequences of Drone Warfare, writes the disturbing, but accurate response of Pakistani American Faisal Shahzad in a Manhattan federal court in 2010. He had placed a bomb in an intersection of Times Square for the revenge of U.S. occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the use of drone strikes. Shahzad said, “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody.

They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war and in war, they kill people” (qtd. In Boyle 1). Anti-drone operation protestors are not as radical as Shahzad, even I feel a little him and the families who have been tragically touched from unfortunate collateral damage. It is preventable and such “high-value” and “classified” operations should not be so reckless and know whom they are killing. However in the article, The world is becoming a safer place for all-except terrorists, the editors argue, “These new tactics and technologies are also making war much safer for bystanders. Civilian casualties have always been a tragic consequence of war.

In the Second World War, for example, millions more civilians died than actual combatants. Drones have vastly reduced this collateral damage”. They go on to give statistics of targets killed versus the collateral damage up until 2013: According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, so far in 2013, the CIA has carried out 22 drone strikes in Pakistan and killed an estimated 99 to 160 targets. Civilian deaths in these instances are estimated at between zero and four. While every civilian death is a tragedy, such a tiny ratio of collateral to intended deaths must be unprecedented in modern warfare.

As mentioned above, it is a tragedy that there are still civilian deaths, the total amount has gone down. Obviously this brings in the other ethical issue: is the life of one worth the life of many? I do believe that every life should be treated with the same respect and natural privileges as everyone else. This includes security and protection, regardless if the child just so happens to be born into a terrorist family, the child has no say in its upbringing. Therefor, I believe that there should be some sort of compromise in regard to drone strikes.

Although it is very complicated and difficult to do, the United States military should not give a go ahead on drone missions that put any innocent life on the line. If there is any doubt in the drone strike, military personnel should be put on the ground to undergo the mission instead. While military men and women lives’ are on the line, they are fully aware of the danger in the mission, and chose to put themselves in situations such as these. The innocent life of one should not be taken to keep our military men, aware that death could be a possibility when enlisting, safe.

The other issue that anti-drone protestors have with the United States’ policy is that the attacks are not legal. Many countries, Pakistan specifically, feels that their sovereignty is being undermined from these attacks. M.W. Aslam, author of the article A critical evaluation of American drone strikes in Pakistan: legality, legitimacy and prudence, discusses the drone strike policies in relation to Pakistan. Aslam explains that Pakistan agreed with the United States to work on the war against terrorism, however are upset about the drone strikes within the boundaries of their borders.

Aslam mentions, “Islamabad has repeatedly condemned the American actions within the boundaries of Pakistan. It has summoned the US ambassador to its Foreign Ministry multiple times to register its protest, but nevertheless the strikes continue (BBC News 2008a)” (314). Aslam continues to justify that the United States has helped Pakistan regardless that they were upset about the strikes being within their borders.

The overlying justification to these drone strikes were argued in the text by former United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. He says: International law must begin to recognise that part of the responsibility of sovereignty is the responsibility to make sure that your own country does not become a platform for attacking other countries… There are areas of the world that are ungoverned or ungovernable but nevertheless technically within the sovereignty of boundaries. Does that mean we simply have to allow terrorists to operate there, in kind of badlands . . .? (Dawn 2008).

This statement from Chertoff is a prime example of the reason why we must act on these terrorists and use drone strikes. These terrorists are threats to our country and there should be some sort of international mediator to allow the strikes of an outside government to deal with a threat if the hosting country is not cooperating. Aslam explains that the United States acting with these terms is us acting for its’ global responsibilities as well and should be justified if there is support from the global community (314).

However should the United States be allowed to grant them this kind of power without the permission of the sovereign state? Aslam continues the argument later in his article by presenting the legitimate laws for cross-border drone strikes. He says, “[Cross-border drone strikes are legal] with explicit ‘consent by the Pakistani government’; under ‘the authorization by the UN Security Council’; as self-defence against ‘non-state actors operating from Pakistan’; or as ‘self- defence against Pakistan itself”” (318). These international laws force the pursuing country to need permission from the sovereign state in order to undergo cross-boarder attacks.

In the article The Legality Behind Targeted Killings And The Use Of Drones In The War On Terror by Michael Coleman and David H. Gray, Coleman and Gray discuss three concepts that must be comprehended in the fight against Al-Qaeda and using drone strikes. They explain that due to Al-Qaeda not pledging alliance to any country, it allows them to move into any country, which sets up the U.S. for boundary issues. As mentioned, boundary issues can cause confusion among sovereign states needing some sort of mediator (41).

Secondly, the concept of neutrality; “Neutrality laws allow the United States to engage transnational actors by still respecting sovereignty” (42). This reiterates again that sovereignty is the most important and delicate idea to be maintained while using drones. And lastly, Coleman and Gray state that combatant status must be aware (42). This is basically how threatening the terrorist group or person is. The status may be that they are planning an attack within the next week, which would call for drone strikes as soon as possible, or that they are no longer a threat, or at least for the time being, and a more intricate, less damaging plan can be addressed.

Ultimately, as long as the rules of international law are being followed, drone strikes should not be an issue in the foreseeable future. Daniel Byman, author of Why Drones Work, has a strong, but strong assessment of drone strikes. He states: Furthermore, although a drone strike may violate the local state’s sovereignty, it does so to a lesser degree than would putting U.S. boots on the ground or conducting a large-scale air campaign. And compared with a 500-pound bomb dropped from an F-16, the grenadelike warheads carried by most drones create smaller, more precise blast zones that decrease the risk of unexpected structural damage and casualties.

Even more important, drones, unlike traditional airplanes, can loiter above a target for hours, waiting for the ideal moment to strike and thus reducing the odds that civilians will be caught in the kill zone.

This assessment is fair in weighing out both sides of the argument. The potential collateral damage that can occur from drone strikes is terrifying and a tragedy. As mentioned before, I believe that there should be absolutely zero percent doubt while undergoing a drone mission or else the mission should be terminated and less threatening plan be conducted to protect the lives of any innocent bystanders. Ethically, there will always be issues with people being upset that the person was not given a fair trial, however so far most missions have been successful in killing guilty terrorists. Legally, issues of sovereignty should not arise as long as the United States follows international law.

Governments should cooperate with cross-border drone strikes in order to terminate any threats to the United States or anyone in the global community. Joseph T. Karam and David H. Gray, authors of The Impact Of CIA Drone Strikes And The Shifting Paradigm Of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, make the final evaluation that although the legal and ethical concerns are around, the drone strike program has succeeded and will continue to succeed for counterterrorism.

The problems are small and very manageable and drone strikes will begin to be a worthwhile tactic for the U.S. in the technological advanced years to come (68). The United States is a country of progress; we are versatile in times of distress and the drone program shows that we can overcome terrorism when confronted by the face of evil.

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Drones Strikes as a Form of the United States Counter Terrorism. (2023, May 17). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/drones-strikes-as-a-form-of-the-united-states-counter-terrorism/

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