The questions behind indiscriminate droning

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 23 February 2013 0 comments
How successful has the US drone program been? Even without the use of statistics, one could argue that victories with the drones have been very limited. They did not do...

How successful has the US drone program been? Even without the use of statistics, one could argue that victories with the drones have been very limited. They did not do much to help the United States in their post-war agendas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is far from a pro-US democracy – it is in the grip of increasingly polarized conflict and the country, it seems, is leaning much closer to Iran than it is to the United States. Similarly, no stable democracy exists in Afghanistan, nor have the Taliban been exterminated. This just goes to prove, as Stephen Walt put it, technological wizardry does not always translate into strategic success.
Having said that, one can understand why the United States does tend to continue to defend its drone policy. For them, it seems to work. The American generals are happy, and the American citizens feel safe knowing they have a remote-controlled technology that can wipe out dozens of people who may be a threat to them or to their principles. Perfectly understandable.
What is disturbing, however, the recent white paper that was leaked in the American media which indicated that the US government has authorized droning of American citizens if they are deemed to be a threat to national security, and/or are planning coordinate attacks on the American soil or American men and women operating abroad. It is the pre-emptive nature of this policy that is disturbing. It also brings the legality of drone attacks back in the spotlight.
With a general international consensus by binding UN laws, governments have a right to manage their internal affairs without external intervention. In political science, this would be called sovereignty. There are several, but few, exceptions to this law. A state may lawfully use force in another state with that state’s invitation or consent; or if the force is authorized by the UN Security Council, or in self-defense in the event of an armed attack.
The United States does not have the UN Security Council backing on their drone policy, which means that they are acting out of their own accord, with some kind of assent of the governments of the countries they are droning. The Department of Justice white paper that was leaked, then, clearly states that the targeted killings carried out by the United States do not violate another state’s sovereignty if that state either consents or is unwilling or unable to suppress the threat posed by the individual being targeted.
Rosa Brooks explained the circular reasoning behind this policy like this: The United States – using its own infinitely malleable definition of “imminent” – decides that Person X, residing in sovereign State Y, poses a threat to the United States and requires killing. Once the United States decides that Person X needs to become deceased, the principle of sovereignty presents no barriers, because either 1) State Y will consent to the US use of force inside its borders, in which case the use of force presents no problem (except for Person X, of course), or 2) State Y will not consent to the U.S. use of force inside its borders, in which case the United States will deem State Y to be “unwilling or unable to suppress the threat” posed by Person X and the use of force again presents no problem.
A scrutiny of the white paper raises several major questions: how relevant is the concept of sovereignty in today’s world, when a big kid in the playground uses his toys to bully the smaller kids? Secondly, how far is the United States willing to go to defend itself against attack? Who is being kept safe? It isn’t the American people overseas. Why, putting it simply, is the world’s most powerful country so paranoid?
CIA Director Nominee John Brennan defended the Obama administration’s drone program in his Senate confirmation hearing saying attacks were only carried out “as a last resort, to save lives when there is no other alternative.” Even America lives? Without ever putting them through a trial, which would be their right, regardless of the activity they may or may not be planning?
The indiscriminate use of drones may lead to an endless war that pits the US against the Islamic world. Already the negative fallout from such aerial attacks is creating negative opinion against the US that Al Qaeda employs to recruit more terrorists into their ranks worldwide.
Just as proxy wars of the 1980s and 1990s were scrutinized and the US administration today admits that perhaps that was not the best of policies to pursue, perhaps it is time that the United States government admits that the controversial drone program never fully justified itself in its foreign and national security policy. So, either the American government must come clean about its drone program, defend its rationale in detail, or admit that the entire project needs a thorough review.
Tacstrat Analysis


Post a Comment