The debate of whether or not drones are an ethical form of warfare can be viewed from many standpoints. For the sake of my argument I will focus in on the fact that drones cause less civilian causalities and how it is able to save more lives while still conducting warfare. This paper will discuss the ratios of civilian causticities in drone strikes compared to traditional forms of warfare. I will also discuss the ethics of using drones and the effect it has on civilians and the public image of the U. S and other western nations.
Lastly I will compare drone warfare to other forms of warfare used in recent history to justify the ethical use of drone warfare as well as how it has altered modern warfare and saves lives by removing soldiers from the front lines. While drones may still cause civilian causalities, the use of drones helps to save more civilian lives than they take compared to civilian causalities in typical warfare as history has shown. In the U. S when we turn on the news or read about drones we often hear about the impacts that they have in the Middle East and strikes that injure or kill non-militant civilians.
However the data behind drone attacks is available to the public to truly investigate the best estimated statistics of the impact of drone strikes. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has collected data on drone strikes in Pakistan since they began in June of 2004 under President Bush’s administration. The idea of using the drones for attacking came around shortly after predator drones were used for tracking Osama Bin Laden.
The CIA equipped the surveillance predator drone with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles that were originally designed for air to surface strikes on armored targets but eventually altered to be used on predator drones for precision targeted killing from above. The drones used were mostly used by the CIA to find and eliminate targets without putting boots on the ground. Since 2004 drone strike continued but were not as often until 2008 when the frequency of drone strikes in Pakistan had a tremendous increase in frequency of occurrence.
During president Bush’s time in office, over 50 drone strikes took place in Pakistan that killed over 500 people, 167 in which were reported as civilians. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) That makes 33% of people killed in drone strikes to be civilian during president Bush’s time in office. 33% seems awfully high and I am willing to agree that it was not a great start for the armed drone program. However a 33% ratio during a high volume of strikes is better than when the Pakistani Army went after militants in tribal areas with boots on the ground, civilians were 46 percent of those killed. NY Times 2012).
Drone warfare has continued to greatly advance since 2009 and in 2010, under the Obama administration, a total of 128 strikes were carried out killing 1,108 targets, with estimated reports ranging from 9% to 20% of those targets being civilians. In the most recent report for drone strikes in Pakistan for this year so far the U. S has launched 13 strikes killing 68 people, 5 in which were reported to be civilians totaling to be about a 7. 4% civilian causality rate.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) As these statistics show, armed drone strikes are continuing to increase precision as technology advances and is proven to claim less lives, for U. S soldiers and local civilians, than traditional boots-on-the-ground operations. Often times the ethical dilemma with drone warfare is the public image that they give to the U. S and our western allies. Some claim that drone strikes killing innocent civilians is leading to more people joining terrorist organizations to fight western powers. While this may be true the terrorists will always have a battle cry against western and foreign powers.
The terrorists claim that those who uses drones are “cowards” and it is shameful we do not send our soldiers to fight them. However if you look back to a decade ago in Iraq when we did have Marines doing night raids in villages searching for IED’s and those that make them , we did not have the best public image either. During these raids the doors would be kicked in and soldiers would pile inside and line up and separate the women and men to search and interrogate the men of the homes about terrorist activates. This happened late at night and could cause terror to innocent civilians in the sanctuary of their own home.
A man being yelled at by an American Marine in front of his wives and family is shameful and demoralizing in their culture and these men could still be detained even for having too much wire around the house making him a possible bomb maker. The main objective of these raids were in hopes to have terrorists take fire at U. S soldiers on the ground in order to allow U. S personnel to engage under their proper rules of engagement.
Also in Iraq there we videos leaked of U. S marines unloading rounds into a mosque after being frustrated and a famous video, released by WikiLeaks, of an Apache Helicopter attacks that allow you to hear U. S soldiers begging for permission to engage individuals that had ,what appeared to be, a RPG and other men with AK-47’s. After sending ground soldiers in to secure the area shortly after a child was found injured and sent to a hospital by the Iraqi Army. Reports later found out these men were journalists for Reuters and that what they had slung over their shoulders cameras and not assault rifles. There was also two injured children in the cross fire and were badly injured when the 130mm cannon fired from the helicopter and ripped through their fathers van who was attempting to assist the wounded men. Reuters)
This is another incident that leads me to support the use of drones. Drones are able to follow targets for long periods of time and figure out a specific individuals weekly routines and when they are in vehicles. Drones are able to target and strike moving vehicles with minimal civilian causalities. In the case of the WikiLeaks video these men were in a helicopter and had a limited line of fire and a short amount of time to react and make a decision to open fire. If this was a drone it would have been able to keep an eye on these suspects until we have evidence of terrorist activity beyond the looks of a rifle in their arms.
Besides if a war was in the U. S don’t you think civilians here would have guns for protection? Also when it comes to economics it costs about $4,000 per hour to operate a MQ-1B Predator Drone while it costs over $22,000 per hour to operate an F-15 fighter jet and over $47,000 per hour for an AC0-130 Gunship. (Thompson) These a just a few of the points that lead me to be in favor of the use of drones in modern warfare. Drones already have a lot of opportunity and technology will continue to advance to increase precision and accuracy to better the ratio of militant to civilian causalities from drone strikes.