Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ethics Of Drone Warfare

Here are a few notes I took while watching this program.
  • US Military has spend more than $26 billion on drones since Since 2001
  • US Military plans to spend $5 billion per year on drones
  • US Military announced $23 billion budget for drone development in Aug 2011
  • RQ11 Raven - size of a model airplane, 4.2 lbs, launched by hand
  • MQ1 Predator - 27' long, 50' wing-span, 1000 lbs, propellor driven, 40 hours air time, cost $4 million each, 250 owned by US Military
  • MQ9 Reaper - 1/3 longer and 1/3 wider wing-span than MQ1, can carry 7 times the payload, 65 owned by US Military, 400 more ordered
  • Hellfire Misiles cost about $25,000 each
  • Primary targets:, Afghanistan , Iraq, Pakistan 365-420 strikes, Yemen 43-53 strikes, Somalia 3-9 strikes, Libya 1+ strikes, Philippines
  • David Cole asked how Americans would react if Russia killed terrorists in Chechnya with drones.
  • Avery Plaw explained that some drone strikes (signature strikes in particular) are counterproductive.
  • The umassdrone.org database includes 82 enemy leaders or high-value targets and 2101 suspected militants have been killed by drones.
  • The Long War Journal reports that 80 enemy leaders or high-value targets and 2414 suspected militants have been killed by drones.
  • US officials claim that 21 of the top 30 al-Qaeda leadership targets have been killed by drones.
  • The Long War Journal estimates that 5.8% of drone strike fatalities are civilian bistanders.
  • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 24% of drone strike fatalities are civilian bistanders.
  • Therefore, drones may be a fairly discriminating compared to the alternatives.
  • umassdrone.org estimates that US non-drone attacks have killed a much higher proportion of civilians. Possibly as high as 37.5% of non-drone attacks are civilians.
  • Avery Plaw stated in conclusion that there are no viable alternatives to go after al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Leon Panetta had good reason to describe drones as "the only game in town".
  • Personality strikes are targeted at a specific named person who is suspected of being an imminent terrorist threat that cannot be otherwise neutralized
  • Signature strikes are targeted at a "pattern of life" which suggests that they might be a combatant.
  • Armed drones are clearly weapons of war and not tools for law enforcement.
  • Gregory Johnson described a failure of foresight in US leadership with regard to drone use.
  • The threat to American lives when drones are used is neither immediate nor apparent, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
  • What America is doing abroad results in "blowback" in response to US drone strikes.
  • Lack of human intelligence and bad intelligence often results in the wrong people being killed.
  • The US approach in Yemen involves about 300 targeted individuals as a result of the Christmas 2009 underwear bomber incident.
  • The US claims that they are disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Signature strikes are sometimes referred to as "crowd killing" by the CIA.
  • The US tends to count any unidentified male in Yemen over the age of 16 as a suspected militant.
  • There seems to be an unspoken assumption that the US can win this war on terrorism on its own.
  • Gregory Johnson described the story of the cleric who spoke out frequently against al-Qaeda and then was later killed in a drone strike resulting in the population gravitating towards to al-Qaeda.
Source: C-SPAN

Scholars talked about the ethics of drone warfare. The program began with an exchange between Vickie Langohr and Avery Plaw on the definition of drones and the history of their use. Afterward, each panelist presented his perspective on the use of drones, with Avery Plaw defending their use, David Cole criticizing the Obama administration for using them, and Gregory Johnsen arguing that drone casualties were driving Yemeni people towards al-Qaeda. They also answered questions from audience members.

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