Solutions to Violent Conflict

Archive for the ‘Drones’ Category

Ethical Perspectives on Drone Warfare

In Drones on March 10, 2016 at 10:15 am

Rashied Omar is the Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He is author of  Tolerance, Civil Society and Renaissance in Post-Apartheid South Africa, published by Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa where he also serves as imam.

The hegemonic view about the use of drones in warfare is that of a surgically precise tool that makes the world a safer place by enabling targeted killings of so-called terrorists without collateral damage. This narrative has been proven to be patently false by a number of credible research studies.

One of the earliest studies is “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan,” produced by the law schools of Stanford University and New York University. The research provides unequivocal evidence refuting government and media claims that drones are pinpoint weapons with limited collateral impact. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of a Perfect Weapon and a Perfect War

In Drones on March 10, 2016 at 10:14 am

Cora Currier is on staff at The Intercept and a journalist with a focus on national security, foreign affairs, and human rights. Her work has been published in Stars and Stripes, The Nation, Al Jazeera America and many other outlets.

Last fall, my colleagues at The Intercept and I published a series of classified Pentagon documents that highlighted flaws in the military’s drone war in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

The documents were brought to us by a whistleblower from the intelligence community who felt that the process illustrated in them—“of monitoring people” and “assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield”—was wrong. They offered rare documentary evidence of what has become an open secret of Barack Obama’s presidency—the program of “targeted killing” of terror suspects by drones or other weapons, away from traditional theaters of conflict. Read the rest of this entry »

Debating Drones: A Response to Michael Hayden

In Drones on March 10, 2016 at 10:14 am

David Cortright is Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He is coeditor of Drones and the Future of Armed Conflict (Chicago University Press, 2015) and author of Ending Obama’s War (Paradigm, 2011).

Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA, recently published a New York Times op-ed article claiming that Americans should embrace drone warfare because it helps to keep us safe. The article seriously misrepresents the nature of the U.S. drone warfare program and triggered a number of sharp reactions.

Hayden claims that drones strikes have been extremely precise and that civilian casualties are low, but Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations contests these claims. Using data from non-governmental groups that monitor drone strikes, Zenko calculates that during the time Hayden was director of the CIA he personally authorized an estimated 48 drone strikes, which killed 532 people, 144 of whom were civilians. The civilian death toll in those strikes was 27 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Moral & Legal Challenges of Drone Warfare

In Drones on March 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Ethicists and international legal experts speaking at the Kroc Institute conference (March 19-21) raised concerns about the implications of drone warfare. Martin Cook (U.S. Naval War College) noted that drone weapons reduce the risk to U.S. forces and result in fewer civilian casualties, but they may increase the temptation to use force. They may be “tactically smart but strategically dumb,” he said.

The justifications for drone warfare offered by Obama administration officials invoke the jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria of just war doctrine, presenters said, but they fail to mention the core principle at the heart of this doctrine:  the presumption against the use of force. Just war principles of discrimination and last resort are often cited in rhetoric but are frequently violated in practice.

Under jus ad bellum criteria, Jennifer Welsh (Oxford University) argued, military force can be used only under very specific and necessary circumstances:  if there is a grave threat of genocidal attack or military aggression, if that threat is actual rather than merely potential, if there is clear evidence that the intended target is liable for the observed threat, and if no possibility exists to capture those responsible.

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A Conference to Assess Drone Warfare

In Counterterrorism, Drones on March 28, 2013 at 10:51 am
Drone Conference pp

Gen. Michael V. Hayden (USAF, ret.), former director of the CIA (standing), with Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur (left), and David Cortright (right), director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute.

Chicago — The Kroc Institute recently assembled some of the world’s leading experts on counterterrorism strategy, ethics and the use of force, international law and civil and human rights for a conference (March 19-21) on “The Ethical, Strategic and Legal Implications of Drone Warfare.”

The conference began with remarks by Gen. Michael Hayden (U.S. Air Force ret.), former director of the CIA. Hayden presented the military case for drone strikes, arguing that they are legal under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force and effective as a means of eliminating targeted Al Qaeda leaders. Drones nonetheless have produced blowback effects, he said, and have strained alliance relationships with some countries.

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Counterterrorism Strategy & Drone Warfare

In Counterterrorism, Drones on March 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

The Obama administration claims that drone strikes are directed at known leaders of Al Qaeda. The majority of those killed in these attacks, however, are insurgents from the Taliban and other locally based militant movements.

At the drone warfare conference, Peter Bergen (New America Foundation) observed that the drone program has evolved into a counterinsurgency air platform. He reported that only 8 percent of those targeted since 2009 have been directly affiliated with Al Qaeda. So-called ‘signatures strikes’ are not directed against designated Al Qaeda leaders but rather target unidentified potential militants in certain locations.

Chris Woods (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) echoed the concerns of Christof Heyns (UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions) about so-called double-tap strikes that target first responders and the funerals of the victims of prior attacks. These policies increase the risk of civilian casualties and inflame local hatreds and animosity toward the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »