Drones have become central to our enduring presence as a global power. Over the extensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, drones have been widely implemented, though mainly through the Central Intelligence Agency. Drones are used in reconnaissance missions and can be weaponized, enabling them to strike a target with precision missiles. While used occasionally by the Bush Administration, Drones use has really taken off under President Obama’s watch. Under the C.I.A.’s control, drones have been used to relay areal information to troops and the commanding officers while also striking down some of our most serious foes.
President Obama has used drones to target terrorists in sovereign countries that we are not at war with, like Pakistan, as well as in places we occupy like Afghanistan. While strikes have gotten more precise and civilian casualties have fallen, errors still occur. President Obama also issued a drone strike to kill an American-born terrorist overseas, which, long with numerous other factors, led to questions of American drone Policy regarding their use against American citizens on American soil. This culminated in Rand Paul’s filibuster, named by twitter users as the “filiblizzard.”
The drone program, developed by the executive branch and the CIA, has been largely free from systematic restraint. Until the “filiblizzard” the Obama Administration had not issued any policy statements restricting the use of drones. Our drone program has been used to push the limits of the international legal system into gray areas many of us would find reprehensible if it was happening near us. Furthermore, the weaponized drone program is housed under the CIA rather than the military, providing our intelligence community with advanced military roles.
Thus, in this White Paper, I would seek to establish firmer policies regarding our drone program, while also recommending that the bulk of the program be shifted to military control. There is evidence that our drone program helps to flame anti-western sentiments in the Middle East, while also inflaming international tensions as nations’ sovereignty are repeatedly violated. Additionally, there is a moral component to wrestle with when killing someone with a drone controlled by a dude on a computer somewhere far away. To my understanding, should the drones be switched to the military, international law dictates that strikes would require the approval of that nation’s government before strikes could be issued. Interestingly, this does not seem to apply to the CIA’s use of drones.
There is abundant information on drones and clear evidence that we lack sufficient drone policies to guide the actions of our nation’s president and CIA. In order to present this position, I would look for statistics regarding drone strikes, the countries in which they take place, the reactions of such countries and of concerned citizens here at home. Additionally, I would seek to identify and propose policies aimed at limiting their combat use in countries we are not at war with. With a new drone base in Niger, increased reconnaissance missions in Syria, continued strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and other places, there is a lot of abuse a proper drone policy could prevent – especially once our virtual monopoly on drones end…