The Debate on Drone Strikes
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.
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