Drone Warfare

According to Reuters, “…President Barack Obama confirmed on Monday that the leader of the Afghan Taliban had been killed by an American air strike, an attack likely to trigger another leadership tussle in a military movement already riven by internal divisions…The president authorized the drone strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a remote region just within the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan…”

I am quite conflicted as to the use of drone warfare. On the one hand, it avoids putting U.S. military personnel in harm’s way and limits our interventionism to a kind of “police action” (or rather, targeted assassination) rather than full-scale invasions,”boots on the ground” which looks to all the world like nation-building and occupation.

On the other hand, the likelihood of civilian casualties is higher and the covert nature of authorization by the President and a handful of close advisers rather than a military operation with all its debate, checks and balances seems to me to leave wide open the possibility of abuse, particularly were this policy to continue under, say, a President Trump (a frightening prospect!).

I also worry about this development opening up a wider use of this technology in the years ahead. Surely it will not be long before our enemies have the knowledge and material to construct such drones of their own (if they do not already have such). Then, what is to prevent home-grown terrorists, either as part of an overseas movement or simply one of our right or left wing extremists, building their own right here in the U.S. and targeting, for example, the President of the United States on one of his speaking tours or while on vacation in Hawaii?

I am not a pacifist and even believe, with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that under certain circumstances, even assassination may  fall under the moral rubric of our “responsibility to protect” and be preferable to launching a full scale offensive like the invasion of Iraq in order to effect regime change of a brutal dictatorship. But, this is a slippery slope at best and I believe we need a huge conversation about drones culminating in very strict guidelines and oversight as to just how and when such instruments of modern warfare should be used.

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