By Willa Yu
Sure they are called drones. But the debate on drones is far from droning. The controversy over the use of drones has, misleadingly, been hotly debated over the past few years.
Advocates of drones argue that they effectively target and kill terrorists. Recently, Pakistani officials reported that a C.I.A. drone strike killed a leader of the Pakistani Taliban. As the Obama Administration refuses to confirm this, the promised transparency has yet to be granted. Wali ur-Rehman, the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban has terrorized Pakistanis with suicide bombings that have killed thousands. His death should come off well with the Pakistani people, however officials have reacted in a different manner. The Foreign Ministry denounced the drone strike and the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, promised to tighten drone activity.
Supporters also reason that there doesn’t seem to be a better way to weaken terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Drones are more accurate and allow drone pilots to carefully discern between combatants and civilians. Hence, drones are moral improvements from other means.
Political science professor Avery Plaw of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth doubts that ending drone strikes would do very little to mitigate the anti-U.S. sentiment already present in the Middle East.
Opponents argue that they unnecessarily kill civilians and stir up even more hatred. A 2012 study by the Global Justice Clinic from New York University School of Law and the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic from Stanford Law School finds that the civilian casualties have served as excellent propaganda to recruit more insurgents while drones have ineffectively killed insurgents. The most reliable estimates thus far have concluded that since 2004 drones have killed approximately 474 to 881 civilians in Pakistan.
An almost disregarded, but still very important point, is that civilians face the constant threat of drone strikes. Even humanitarian helpers are wary of going in and helping out because they fear the possibility of an attack.
Furthermore, the United States’ attempts at eradicating enemy combatants/high profile terrorists have only a 2% success rate. While these attacks only take out so little of the enemies, they drive more people to adopt radical beliefs.
Many adversaries also assert that by using drones the United States is setting a bad precedent for governments around the world. If the U.S. can do it, what is stopping everyone else from waging drone wars?
Even religious parties oppose the attacks. Mualana Syed Yusuf Shah, the leader of a religious party contends that the death of Rehman will only fuel more revenge and thus bloodshed.
Since 2004, when the U.S. first launched its drone war in Pakistan, Pakistan has seen at least 360 attacks from the U.S. However, amidst recent examination the U.S. has cut back on the number of attacks.
With strong supporters for both sides of the debate on drones, it is likely that legislation will require a substantial amount of time to pass. But as the days go on, more strikes are launched and more people reevaluate their standings legislation seems inevitable in the future. Whether change will be brought about in the near future or the distant future really just depends on the voices of the challengers.
By Willa Yu
Affirmative action, founded in the 1960’s, was implemented in the name of equality. Now, about half a century later, it is time to consider if the policies deemed appropriate immediately after the Civil Rights Movement are still suitable in today’s society. The Supreme Court may finally decide that affirmative action in higher education does the exact opposite of what it intends—to create equality. At the same time, preferential treatment in higher education might actually make a comeback in some states. While some resolve to abolish it, others firmly champion affirmative action, making it one of the United States’ most pressing social issues.
Many states, such as Michigan, have already decided that it is unconstitutional to use racial preferences in admissions to public universities. In 2006, an initiative prohibited preferential treatment in public education, government contracting, and public employment. Hitherto, all attempts to repeal this referendum, called Proposal 2, have fail. However, proponents of affirmative action in Michigan are to voice their opinions in a new Supreme Court case, Schuette v. Coalition for Affirmative Action, which was granted a writ of certiorari on Monday, April 22. Given that just last fall, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Proposal 2 violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause on a 8 to 7 vote, it seems as though the Supreme Court will have an equally split vote. A Democratic president appointed all eight judges in the majority while a Republican president appointed all seven judges in the dissent. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this case in the term that starts this October.
Meanwhile, a Texas student’s lawsuit against the University of Texas will be decided as soon as Monday, April 29th. Abigail Fisher, a white student denied by the University of Texas, claims that while she was denied, under-qualified minorities were accepted. Oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas were heard fall of 2012 in which Abigail Fisher followed by stating, “My parents always taught me that it is wrong to discriminate. I hope the Supreme Court will decide that all future University of Texas applicants will compete without their race or ethnicity used in the school’s admissions process.” President of the University of Texas Bill Powers told after the oral arguments, “The educational benefits of diversity are worth fighting for all the way to the Supreme Court. Our lawyers effectively made the case to the justices that diversity — ethnic and otherwise — benefits all students on campus. We made the case that UT has crafted an admissions policy that meets the strict guidelines established by the court in the Grutter decision nine years ago.”
Interestingly enough, advocates for affirmative action are now defending these policies with the idea of diversity rather than curtailing prejudices. Of course, this raises the question: does the U.S. value diversity over fairness or vice versa?
Because no one on the defense mentioned any disadvantages faced by minorities, the debate on affirmative action has clearly shifted from the time of its conception to now. Naturally, a shift in ideals would not sit well with those who supported racial preferences for their original intentions. As the Supreme Court’s judgment draws near, all there is left to wonder is if affirmative action should be upheld based on an entirely different reason than the purpose of its foundations.