Codifying the protection of civilians as a commander’s explicit objective in all operations is an essential step toward reducing noncombatant casualties.
Latest in drone strikes
An appreciation of the effects of targeted strikes—as well as legal and ethical assessments of them—should guide decisions about whether, when, and where to conduct strikes.
Now that Afghanistan is no longer an area of active hostilities, strikes should be subject to the standard of near certainty.
The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on July 6 submitted a report claiming the January done strike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani constituted a violation of international law.
Editor’s Note: The armed drone has become the emblem of U.S. counterterrorism, but critics charge that it leads to high numbers of civilian casualties and a popular backlash in places like Pakistan. Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, argues that the drone campaign has proven highly effective at degrading (though not ending) al-Qaeda and other groups in Pakistan. He lays out conditions under which a drone campaign would be effective elsewhere, noting the importance of intelligence and the need for a rapid-response capacity.
Editor’s Note: One of the most common, and seemingly convincing, critiques of the drone program is that it produces "blowback"—each miss that kills civilians, or even each hit that kills a militant, angers locals near the blast zone and inflames national sentiment against the United States in ways that aid militant recruitment. Such arguments are difficult to evaluate, but Aqil Shah of the University of Oklahoma did extensive survey and interview research on this question.
Editor’s Note: Drone strikes are among the most important, and among the most contentious, U.S. counterterrorism instruments. Data limits and the complexity of both cause and effect when it comes to terrorism make many judgments on efficacy difficult. A bigger problem, however, is that effectiveness is often divorced from strategy. Jacqueline Hazelton of the Naval War College takes this challenge on, building on her research published in the Journal of Strategic Studies.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reported that President Trump “has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, … changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.” The article is sparking a lot of hand-wringing. Should it?
What security-related executive orders are likely to be repealed in whole or in part soon after Donald Trump is sworn in as president? I list some obvious ones below, and will be happy to update the list with predictions others may send me.
1. Executive Order 13491 (Jan. 22, 2009) ("Ensuring Lawful Interrogation")
Over the past decade, military drones, whether weaponized or merely equipped for surveillance, have been at the center of many heated arguments, whether about targeted killing, counterterrorism, the supposedly "too easy" resort to force through drones, and a host of other controversies.