The Arguments For and Against Drones
David Aaronovitch has a fine column today on the case for and against the use by the US of drones in Pakistan, in The Times (pay wall). As a model of clarity in argument, he first disposes of the irrelevant clutter:
For the purpose of this important argument I will ignore the routine anti-Americans. Some of them will not be satisfied or convinced until they find themselves hanged publicly for blasphemy outside the Caliph’s palace.
Then he sets out the four main arguments against drones, and assesses each one:
1. Too many civilians are killed or traumatised.
To leave the militants alone is, at the very least, to invite attacks in Pakistan and around the world from bases in the borderlands. This isn’t conjecture. But to root them out through a ground campaign would kill and displace far more civilians than drone-use would.
2. Drone strikes fail to reduce armed militancy and may be counter-productive by causing radicalisation.
Young jihadis from around the world can no longer regard attendance at a training camp in Waziristan as the safe bit before the big operation. Remarkably, in view of the arguments of the no-drone campaigners, those who actually live in the areas of drone strikes are less hostile to them than Pakistanis generally. Living with jihadis can be a pain.
3. They are contrary to international law.
This will be tested in the courts and it’s right that it should be. My instinct is that the history of terrorist violence and its nature will show plenty of cause for most drone strikes.
4. Their very cheapness removes an important inhibition in the use of extreme violence.
This point has truth to it. Drones are so easy, so cheap, so comparatively accurate, that we might well feel that we could use them in situations and in numbers we otherwise wouldn’t contemplate. In other words, we might get drone creep. So let’s keep an eye on it.
It seems that the arguments against drones are mostly arguments against the principle of the use of military force to harass and deter jihadist terrorists.
I am surprised that the legal position has not been more discussed, however. The use of military force against targets in a country that has not asked for help seems to raise different questions from those in, say, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. This seems more analogous to the law on assassination, such as of Osama bin Laden. One legal discussion I have seen, of the killing by the Israeli Defence Force of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military leader, is rather general although leans in favour of its being legal.
If anyone knows of good articles about this, please let me know.Tagged in: Drones, international law
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