Ashley Pierce is a political science freshman and Mustang Daily conservative columnist.
The drone war: it’s all the news outlets seem to be focused on a lot of the time, and with good reason.
In theory, drones are absolutely fantastic. An unmanned plane sets off to find its target, a dangerous threat to U.S. safety, and eradicates them without harming any American military personnel. All our dutiful men and women are safe for one mission.
Drones not only save the lives of American military members, but have also been found to lower the percentage of civilian deaths in a war zone (“but that’s not what the news stations have been saying!”).
Bear with me for a second. The casualty rate for civilians in Pakistan drone attacks ranges between 22 and 35 percent, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This is a low percentage compared to the number of civilians who have died in bombings and napalm attacks. In one case during the Vietnam War, 228 civilians died in just three napalm attacks, compared to the 579 — 1,081 estimated to have died from drone strikes in Pakistan in a total of nine years.
Any amount of civilian death is unacceptable, and I can only hope the U.S. military works hard to rid the world of these imprecise weapons. New technology must be made that will be more accurate in killing a target, and not those surrounding him or her.
Drone technology displays the efforts the U.S. military undergoes to assure more lives are kept. The mainstream media, however, keeps reporting on the high civilian death toll and how morally wrong drone strikes are.
Unfortunately, drone technology seems to have been taken advantage of by the C.I.A. Reports display that while the U.S. military answers to mistakes with drone technology, the C.I.A has not been open with American citizens with its part in the drone war.
Arguably for national security, the CIA probably shouldn’t be open about too much; however, it must answer to its responsibilities not only to our country, but for the sanctity of all innocent life.
The Department of Justice papers released by NBC News (its excessive watermark on the online copy makes sure everyone knows) reveals the U.S. has a system for how to go about killing American citizens with drone strikes (this got everyone’s panties in a bunch).
After reviewing the document for myself, I didn’t find anything too abhorrent about it. It doesn’t target just any American citizen that President Obama finds to be somewhat of a bore, but rather American citizens who have proven to be a “senior operational leader in Al Qaeda or an associated force of Al Qaeda — that is an Al Qaeda leader actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.” I see no wrong in protecting American citizens from such attacks.
How the Department of Justice and CIA go about deciding if an American citizen belongs to Al Qaeda does concern me, and I would hope that given the option of arresting the supposed leader, they would put the suspect under arrest rather than order a drone strike on his life.
The government has more to gain interrogating the supposed terrorists than simply ending his or her life without trial or investigation. It’s important Americans’ right of judicial process remains intact. The only exception should be if other lives are in immediate danger (which pretty much relays what the Department of Justice papers say).
While the papers aren’t incredibly specific as they probably should be, an imminent threat is described as: “In this context, imminence must incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity, the possibility of reducing collateral damage to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks on Americans.”
I can find no fault with that definition and can only hope the person taking these things into consideration does so with utmost care. I would go as far as to say there should be more than one person making this decision. A person’s life still hangs in the balance and, if innocent, their death would be a tragedy.
While the controversy on drones will probably rage on for quite some time longer, the drones themselves don’t seem to be the problem. Human error and assumption are the underlying factors that can lead to innocent bloodshed and questionable ethics.