Point/Counterpoint: Drone Warfare

There has been much debate over the legalities, ethical and moral usage of drone warfare. Drones allow us to strike enemies with human soldiers afar, but there have been instances where innocent citizens have died as a result of drone usage. Chris Herman ‘16 isn’t so sure we’re using them right, while Matthew Pennekamp ‘16 argues that drone usage is the best way to help us acheive military goals.
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We need to question the ethics of drones

By Chris Herman
News Editor

I feel like I should start by saying I am not opposed to the use of drones. In fact, I believe integrating them into the military has been a great example of utilizing technologica ladvancement. But as the death toll from these drone strikes mounts, I’ve come to question the ethics behind them, and how the current administration has decided they can be used. A couple weeks ago, MSNBC released a memo from the U.S. Justice Department which has revealed the legal case for using drones to kill Americans. It argues an American must be a part of al-Qaeda or an associated force, and be considered an immediate threat.

This seems clear at first, until you realize the memo also reads, “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future”. If this does not bother you, you may want to skim over the U.S. Constitution real quick, specifically the fifth, sixth, and seventh amendments, which protect your right to a fair trial.

This memo has given precedent to bypass the principles this country is guided by. This isn’t an exaggeration or a conspiracy. This is the reality we now live in. Your representatives and public officials have decided they can drop a bomb on your head based solely on the interpretation of intelligence reports.Don’t believe me? Look up Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. He was a sixteen year old American teenager, born in Colorado, who was killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike in 2011. He was there with his father, who had been killed in a drone strike two weeks prior due to his alleged work as a senior al-Qaeda recruiter and propagandist by U.S. authorities.

However, the reason for his son’s death is left to be questioned, especially since before even giving this kid a trial by jury, we decided the whole world would be better off if we just blew him up. If he turned out to be an innocent bystander, that is all the more disturbing. An American was killed by Americans in a country we are not in conflict with. If this is the precedent being set for our world, I truly worry for our future.

Unfortunately, I only see this issue getting more complicated before it gets better. Like what was done with the atomic bomb, this country needs to seriously question the ethical protocols behind how we decide to enforce our policy. I’d argue indiscriminately blowing up teenagers in the desert is probably not the best way, and there are a lot of people in this country who need to catch up to that idea.

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Drones help us achieve military goals

By Matthew Pennekamp
Staff Writer

You’re in the cockpit. Nervous? You should be, for the safety of 300 million of your fellow citizens is tied to the decision you make. Assuming, as the vast majority of mainstream Republicans and Democrats do, that the pursuit of al Qaeda must be successful, then that leaves you with two choices: either an infusion of troops into any country with a strong enough al-Qaeda syndicate, or war-byother-means. If you are among those who believe the last twelve years has been a waste of American resources, then the first choice isn’t for you. The logical way, then, to conduct a war of invisible enemies is by means of the second.

Drone warfare’s benefits are numerous. For instance, there is a risk that soldiers will be put in harm’s way. On the other side of the equation, the effect that drones have had on al Qaeda’s kingpins has been nothing short of miraculous, leaving its leadership dead and their would-be successors disorganized. Even the most potent criticism levied at drone warfare – its impact on noncombatants – is hampered by the fact that civilian deaths have actually decreased ever since the Obama administration instituted new guidelines requiring more reliance upon CIA-verified hard intelligence and less upon so-called “signature strikes” (i.e. targeting people who bear the hallmarks of terrorist activity without concrete proof). Accordingly, Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and no friend of presidential power, alluded that 2012’s total drone deaths were “in the single-digits” – the first time since 2006.

Although the advent of any new style of warfare can rile the nerves of those who fear overreach, we cannot allow these nerves to hijack the bigger picture. Take the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born insurgent killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. If his were the story of a protester killed for his disavowal of American policy, then his death-without-trial would be objectionable. However, al-Awlaki had not only disavowed the United States; he had taken up arms against it. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, passed by a near-unanimous Congress with the full weight and effect of a declaration of war, designated al-Qaeda the enemy and, by extension, anyone affiliated with it an enemy combatant. Al-Awlaki fell into this category, for he had chosen to take up arms against the country willing to stomach any peaceable objection he had.

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