Once again Drone use overseas, and domestically, and abroad in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The resurge of criticism stems from non-profit and non-governmental groups like Amnesty International releasing articles titled like: Will I Be Next? Amnesty International argues that drone strikes kill more innocent lives than the U.S. Government says and that drone strikes are illegal amongst other issues of legality and sovereignty. On the other hand, government leaders, like Defense Secretary Leon Panetta advocate that support drones strikes.
The divide is understandable. From the perspective of international organizations like Amnesty International drones strikes are institutionalized killing of innocents while also representing clear violations of international law. Criticism is also being directed to other countries like Germany, which suspended a recent purchase of drones and publicly stated that drones gives Washington ‘a license to kill’. And it is certainly true, drones kill innocent people (otherwise known as non-combatants) while killing extremists and prominent extremist leaders. The biggest problem with the drone issue is the uncertainty of the body count; on one side the American Government and the Pakistani Parliament estimate the innocent body count to be 3% (or 67 casualties) of casualties since 2008, whereas other sources like the UN claim that number to be as high as 400 casualties or 17.9%. Who can people trust as legitimate sources to verify the body count on top of the fact that most of the information about drone strikes is classified? The whole process of body counts and war statistics are, as they have always been, less than 100% and there is no reason that drone strikes will be perfectly transparent.
The problem with criticizing drones strikes is the lack of a viable alternative. Sure, drones kill people. And yes, they probably violate a plethora of international legal norms. But the United States, and arguably the world, has shifted the anti-terror Bush Doctrine and we cannot and will not turn back. Extremists will continue to do their work and threaten the West whether or not we use drones. Stopping drones strikes only legitimizes extremist groups as victors in the war of terror; granted the killing of innocents and violence in general boosts the legitimacy of extremist groups but nothing will destroy progress more than giving up drones will. It is certain that any other anti-terror or counter insurgency technique, whether that is boots on the group or other missile strikes will kill the same or more civilians.
Threats and war change but how to deal with them stays the same. Leaders still have to protect their people and in the global world and the global threat of terror; the response the Presidents have taken to protect the United States is to use drones to destroy enemies within the boundaries of other states. Why repeat Iraq and Afghanistan, and possible Vietnam by invading Pakistan and Yemen to deal with extremist cells when the military can take out leaders and weaken extremists from a position of safety?
It is easy to criticize the ethics and legality of drones, but does each state not have the right to defend itself? And if that is true, does the state not have the right to defend itself against global threats? Beyond air strikes and boots on the ground, drones are equally illegal, less threatening to innocents, have less collateral damage, and protect American and Western lives. Western states will continue to take heat for their programs but will continue their drone programs. War is hell, and people will die but that is the price security demands; and until a more viable security source emerges, drones will continue to be a driving force of Western security employing the Bush Doctrine.
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Taylor Tielke, 2015, is a politics blogger for the Concordian. He is a junior from Yankton, South Dakota and at Concordia he studies political science, global studies and history. Besides the Concordian, Taylor is involved with Concordia Forensics, peer mentoring and Concordia’s Secular Student Community. In his free time Taylor reads the news avidly, works out and enjoys tea. Taylor finds politics, political philosophy, religion and foreign policy particularly intriguing topics.