United States Targeted Killings, Essay Example


Since 9/11, the United States government has focused on eliminating the danger of Jihadist militants acting in Asia and Africa. By targeted killings, the military created drone campaigns to “cut off the head” instead of fighting against Jihadist groups. However, the actions and the killings have divided the international public, and some countries, agencies and organizations are questioning the right of the United States to carry out these operations. One of the main concerns regarding campaigns is the huge cost of intelligence services involved and the high rate of civilian casualties. The below essay will examine both the benefits and downfalls of the campaign in order to provide a realistic account on the effectiveness of the strategy.


While the United States uses intelligence to locate and eliminate Jihadist military leaders mostly in Arabic countries, it also focuses on “homegrown Jihadist terrorists”. According to Bjelopera, since 9/11, there have been over 60 “homegrown” plots or attacks against the United States. The danger to the country is real, and nobody wants to face another serious terrorist attack on American land. Boyle (2) confirms that the American counterterrorist policies have not changed from the beginning of the Obama administration, however, the number of drones increased. The CIA-run program operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. (Boyle 2) According to the defense secretary, these drones are extremely well-planned and precise, and they are focused on minimizing the risk for civilians. Further, Johnston and Sarbahi (20) confirm that the analysis of military activities and terrorist attacks in the regions showed that the drone strikes indeed helped reduce the rate of military violence.


According to Bergen and Tiedmann (3), the civilian fatality rate of targeting militant activists is around 32 percent. This fact itself can make the critics of the United States assume that the country is acting as an aggressor, and in the name of protecting civilians, it is actually killing them. There are more critics than supporters to the campaigns, and all of them approach the question from a different point of view. The three most common arguments are based on ethical, strategic and legal grounds. (Johnston and Sarbahi 5) The cost of intelligence operations can only be estimated, not to mention that the US international relations are being damaged. Bergen and Tiedmann (5) state that “But the U.S. drone strikes don’t seem to have had any great

effect on the Taliban’s ability to mount operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan or to deter potential Western recruits”, while Boyle says that “in Pakistan, TBIJ reports that 176 children have been killed in drone strikes since 2004”. The high civilian casualty rate and the ineffectiveness of the operation questions whether there is any use of carrying out these activities in the four countries mentioned above. Johnston and Sarbahi (9) state that terrorists have already adapted to the new type of warfare and have changed their recruitment and communication method, making it harder for the US military to obtain information. Civilians and governments in the affected countries become more hostile against the United States, as well. Therefore, given the ineffectiveness, high civilian casualty rate and effects on international politics, it is evident that drone strikes have not proven to be successful.


While the ideology behind drone strikes and the intention to protect the United States from terrorists is valid, the effectiveness of the program has not been satisfactory. While the United States should keep on focusing on locating and eliminating “homegrown” Jihadist terrorists who can cause real damage in the United States would be a more effective program that would possibly protect American people at a greater extent. As Bjelopera (3) confirms, preventive policing and investigative approaches need to be put in place alongside with analyzing the motivations of people becoming the tool of Jihadist plotters in the United States. Therefore, the authors of the present essay would recommend the United States president to focus on the threat of homegrown terrorists at a lower cost and the protection of Americans in their own country.

Works Cited

Bergen, P., Tiedmann, K. The Year of the Drone. An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010. New America Foundation. 2010. Web.

Bjelopera, J. American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat. Congressional Research Service. 2013.  Web.

Boyle, M.  The Costs and Consequences of Drone Warfare. The Royal Institute of International Affairs. Published by Blackwell Publishing. 2013. Web.

Johnston, P., Sarbahi, A. The Impact of US Drone Strikes on Terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 2013. Web.