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The Use of Drones as Public Policy in America, Essay Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1851

Essay

The efficacy, legality, and morality of using drones have dominated the debates surrounding America’s use of them to combat terrorism.[1] It is interesting, however, to examine why the use of drone strikes on purported enemies has garnered such mass appeal within the United States. John Kaag and Sarah Krepps’ Drone Warfare succinctly discusses the moral, political, and legal questions that have germinated out of the celeritous rise of deploying armed drones during the last few years as a measure of national security.[2]  They perceive of the use of drones as an interdisciplinary intervention that both philosophers and political scientists alike believe have changed the nature of how the United States wages war in addition to how peace and war have been redefined.[3] Because the military actions have increasingly become more virtual via the use of drones within military contexts, a discussion about both the framing and perception of drones as an apt response to the threats of terrorism and to national security. These various issues surrounding drones as public policy have affected both anti-war and pro-war sentiments which calls for an exposition on public opinion regarding the drones.

Drones have emerged as the main mechanism in combating terrorism ever since Barack Obama was sworn into the presidency in 2008.[4] Washington has to the chagrin of many politicians quelled budding threats to American national security with targeted killings in locales that seem far away from the battlefields including Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.[5] Drones were initially used for surveillance purposes although they have transformed into elite and complex killing mechanisms deployed for targeting and eliminating persons who are suspected of plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks. It should be noted that the use of drones as critical tools in the War on Terror commenced during the Bush administration but has profoundly proliferated by Obama during the past decade.[6] Political scientists view drones as a far more proportionate and culled means of executing war, especially within the context of the War on Terror. Indeed, drones have been rendered as quite politically appealing because they will ensure that the United States reduces its military involvement around the globe—thereby abating the antagonism foreign nations have towards the U.S. acting as an international police—while concurrently unfoiling terrorist plots and preventing further attacks. The trend of using drones, however, has resulted in the germination of various controversies and anxieties, thereby creating an ongoing debate about the efficacy of drone use as public policy. Critics decry the use of drones because of the likelihood that they would escalate and perpetuate rather than defuse the current War on Terror that has been going on for the past decade. Cronin articulates the nebulous image of drone use as public policy when he states that “drones are killing operatives who aspire to attack the United States today or tomorrow…they are also increasing the likelihood of attacks over the long term, by embittering locals and cultivating a desire for vengeance.”[7] The concerns and issues surrounding the volatile issue of drone use as public policy therefore persist in an increasingly tense political and military climate at the national and international levels.

An overview of Kaag and Krepps’ terse monograph is necessary in order to further explore the use of drones as American public policy and understand the implications of doing so. The work first provides a survey of the celeritous rise of armed drones used by the U.S. government as public policy beginning at the end of 2001 with the covert drone attack at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This attack drew in intense media coverage investigating on the attack that subsequently resulted in the formulation of a narrative on the politics of drones within the American context in addition to their legality as well as the morality of using them. It is important to note that Kaag and Krepps only discuss drones that are armed, although it is noted that some of the critical contentions therein are also applicable to the research and studies conducted on unmanned aerial vehicles, also dubbed UAVs. The initial section investigates the politics of drones both at the national and global levels by exploring how drones result in less money spent by nations on war. Human lives of soldiers in addition to financials costs of war are thus abated by the use of drones, thereby rendering drones politically popular and a viable alternative to armed conflict. The notion of “immanent threat” and its various limitations is also explored, a concept that is often conjured up when targeted killing is carried out as a preventative measure. As such, an examination of the efficacy from a military standpoint of drones within counterinsurgency is investigated in the author’s assessment of drone warfare in contemporary contexts.

The next section probes if drone use in combat zones is conducive with legal commitments on the global stage.[8] The authors criticize drone use in war zones as operating within a nebulous and unclear gray zone within the legal arena, and it is a military practice that unequivocally violates agreed on principles of just warfare. They argue that the covert drone strikes carried out both in Pakistan and Yemen at the outset of the twenty-first century were both breaches of jus ad bellum, which translates into “recourse to warfare,”[9] in addition to just conduct in warfare in which combatants and civilians maintained clear-cut distinction. Moreover, to principle of proportionality of military advantages in the link between civilian injury and damage must be taken into consideration. The final section of Kaag and Kreps’ work investigates and assesses fundamental assumptions that are embedded in the use of military technology as it pertains to warfare by unpacking why enthusiasm within national contexts for the deployment of drone technology continues to be dangerously conflated with the increasingly precise and accurate nature of new military technologies of warfare that is rendered humane. This posturing effectively distances national citizens from having to take accountability for the actions taken by the government. Operators of drones are confronted by various ethical dilemmas within the so-called time-space dynamic of drone use in the context of war, meaning when drones are used to support ground force in Afghanistan or Iraq that the operators of the technologies can witness firsthand the death and destruction caused by drone use in war. Americans continue to set dangerous precedents with regards to future drone laws and policies and how drones will be grafted into the lexicon of just war in the near future. It is necessary for an interdisciplinary discussion and debate about the place of drone use in American public policy by including ethicists, sociologists, behavioral specialists, and applied psychologists.[10] The proliferation of drone use by the United States has resulted in a constantly shifting military terrain which calls for a reconsideration of how war should be conducted within a just warfare framework yet incorporating the new technologies available within a constantly evolving international landscape.

It is clear that extant literature and discourse on armed drones use has revolved around their efficacy, legality, and the ethical dimensions involved when contextualized within the just war theory. Such debates have been broached from a variety of angles, but they have not yet comprehensively covered whether or not such discussions actually impact the use of armed drone by the U.S. government. As a result, the ongoing dialogue about the benefits and drawbacks of Obama relying on the use of drones is quite polarized and often results in general confusion amongst the American populace.[11] As such, it must be probed within these competing arguments and posturing whether the use of armed drones and engaging in drones strikes as public policy appeal to Americans. While many political scientists contend that public opinion rarely holds sway over public policy nor does it undergird their efficacy within military contexts, such a line of inquiry cannot be outright dismissed in public debates about their use and overreliance by the Obama administration.[12]

The political element of drone use is a contested one, which calls for an examination of the historical bonds between war and public policy. American citizens have historically voiced their opinions and indirectly participated in render a decision over military ventures via elected representatives in order to galvanize the public and garner broad public support for any and all war efforts and the economic and human costs that war entails. Indeed, the United States Constitution has explicitly divided Congress’ prerogative to declare war and the president’s role as the commander-in-chief. However, the division of labor has in the past decade come under siege as a result of rapid technological advances that the Founding Fathers never imagined. Schattschneider proffers a timeless argument in which he describes a steadfast belief in the power of democracy while also expressing his antipathy for the impractical expectations regarding the power that “the people” actually have.[13] Moreover, he argues that the American government as the purported vehicle of democracy contains undemocratic facets that are firmly embedded therein. As such, Schattschneider admonishes against the assumption that popular democracy is easy to encourage and implement.[14]  As such, Schattschneider’s central contention is that a political system can function well if the government makes the important decisions on behalf of the people within minimal involvement of the public. One critical source of power is to ensure that “the people” remain locked into innocuous political issues instead of the important ones such as the use of drones to combat terrorism on a global level.  The question still remains whether or not drones undermine American democracy because it short circuits the decision-making process that undergirds the democratic process that the Founding Fathers had envisioned.

Public polls carried out by national polling groups have concluded that the majority of the American people support the use of armed drones in drone strikes.[15] As such, despite the fact that there is criticism against the use of armed drones in public discourses, the posturing of the majority of the American people seemingly vindicates the government’s use of armed drones in the global fight against terrorism. The use of armed drones have thus seemingly emerged as the calculated effort by the American government to galvanize public support for the fight against terror due to the fact that the notion of “boots on the ground” in the aftermath of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has remained exceedingly unpopular while palpable responses to perceived terror threats remain highly popular.

Works Cited

Cronin, A.K. “Why Drones Fail: When Tactics Drive Strategy.” Foreign Affairs 92.4(2013): 44-54.

Kaag, John and Sarah Krepps. Drone Warfare. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014. Print.

Schattschneider, E.E. The Semi-sovereign people: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America.  Boston: Wadsworth, 1975. Print.

Stone, Deborah. Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision-Making. United States: W.W.   Norton & Company. Inc, 2011. Print.

[1]Cronin, “Why Drones Fail,” 44.

[2]John Kaag and Sarah Krepps. Drone Warfare (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014).

[3]Ibid, 10.

[4]Ibid.

[5]A.K. Cronin, “Why Drones Fail: When Tactics Drive Strategy.” Foreign Affairs 92.4(2013): 44.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid, 52.

[8]Kaag and Kreps, Drone Warfare, 79.

[9]Ibid.

[10]Ibid, 142-143.

[11]Cronin, “Why Drones Fail,” 45.

[12]Deborah Stone, Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision-Making.(United States: W.W.   Norton & Company. Inc, 2011).

[13]E.E., Schattschneider, The Semi-sovereign people: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America (Boston: Wadsworth, 1975).

[14]Ibid, 136.

[15]Cronin, “Why Drones Fail,” 54.

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