Obama drone policy unethical, harming U.S. perception abroad
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 01:11
Unmanned aerial vehicles, most commonly referred to as drones, have been used by the US military to attack suspected enemies consistently since 2004, when President Bush sought to locate and kill Taliban and Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.
Since then, drone use has been on the rise and has diversified to include other countries, and drone operations are targeting various terrorist groups.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, there have been more than 300 drone strikes and 2,500 people killed by those drone attacks since Barack Obama took office. The Obama administration and the American people need to think carefully and critically about the ethical implications of drone use, as well as what the United States’ use of drones says about our country’s philosophy and global agenda moving forward.
It is unfortunate that President Obama has taken the stance he has regarding the use of drones in military action. As a man who champions himself and is lauded by a good deal of the American people as a supporter of human and civil rights, Obama’s backing of drones doesn’t jive with his ethos.
Obama has sold himself as a President who has concerns for minorities and the weak. Does the use of a remote controlled killing device that sometimes kills children fit Obama’s character? Does it comply with what we want America to be?
Many say the use of unmanned drones is a necessary evil to protect the American homeland. Others will roughly guffaw that President Obama and the government who support drone use aren’t letting down the American people, but keeping them safe. A United States that believes civilian life in Pakistan is less valuable than civilian life in Maryland is not a United States I am proud to be a part of.
While some might groan at the prospect of an increasingly global world community, it is happening and is irreversible. We would be good to embrace the changes, rather than try and fight them. We don’t have a very good track record of attempting to deny cultural shifts.
The legality of drone use has been continually questioned by American and global leaders. A UN specialist on extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns, has suggested that some drone strikes constitute "war crimes." Other experts like Ian Seiderman, the director of the International Commission of Jurists, have said that because of drone use, "immense damage was being done to the fabric of international law." Experts are indeed worried US drone use might be doing more harm than good, encouraging terrorists to act out and possibly provoking other countries to violate laws set up by events like the Geneva Convention.
The ethics of drone use is probably the most challenging argument, as has already been mentioned with the loss of civilian life. A joint 2012 report done by law school researchers at NYU and Stanford titled "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan" details the terrorizing effects drones are having on people in the affected areas.
According to the report, "their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings or anything that involves gathering in groups." Obviously drones are not just sniping out evil individuals – they are destroying cultures and innocent lives.
One of the most defeating moments of the 2012 presidential elections came in the last debate when both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama refused to deliberate over the use of drones, both basically conceding that what was happening was working for the country and didn’t need a change. When asked about Obama’s drone policy, Romney said, "I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends." No discussion about the ethical implications or civilian deaths caused by drone use ensued.
While American drone attacks have indeed killed terrorists, legal ramifications and human rights violations must be reconsidered. Like any technology, continued analysis and questioning must be done as America and other countries navigate toward finding peace on the earth. President Obama would do better to reassess his position under the lens of his human rights campaigns.
The American people need to look outside themselves and view all civilian lives as valuable, not just ones with whom we share citizenship. Those things we deem as necessary evils are still exactly that: evil.