Drone strikes: are they helping or hurting?

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Photo courtesy of United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons

By Marina Souliman

Zubair Rehman, a Pakistani 13 year old who lost his grandmother in a drone strike, testified to the courts, “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey and for a short period of time the mental tension and fear eases.”

This is the fear that runs through the minds of the people living in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, where drone strikes are the norm. Blue skies are no longer a symbol of peace but rather of danger as silent drones fly overhead completely undetectable to the civilians beneath them. With such terror harming their mental state, the ethical and moral ideals that come with drone strikes must be reevaluated.

According to a national Pew Research Center survey, about 58 percent of the United States approves of drone strikes that target extremists but almost 80 percent also show some form of concern in regards to endangering lives. Despite concern about the negative effects, there is evident support for the use of drone strikes, and thus the American public must understand the implications of drone strikes.

Although they offer combative benefits due to their manageable price and easy transportation, drone regulations do not clearly define who is the enemy and who is innocent.

According to CNN, Barack Obama’s administration came out with the estimation figure of about 64 to 116 civilians who were killed during 2009-2015. However, independent reports contest that the number is closer to 800. With informational discrepancies, there needs to be accurate data collection and collaboration in order for drone strikes to be evaluated and accepted as a valid tool for government intervention.

Drones may have killed about 3,500 militants, but their presence creates more terrorists than they kill. As strikes harm those around them, civilians become more likely to support terrorist groups.

The Washington Post revealed that the core members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula grew from 300 in 2009 to 700 in 2012 after the U.S. began drone strikes in their surrounding area. This resulted in a greater number of terrorist recruitment and attacks in the region as well as more drone strikes overall.

Cases brought up against the United States’ use of drone strikes reveal protocols that allow for attacking individuals with no definite proof they are terrorists. Signature strikes give the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command the opportunity to target individuals who fit a “terrorist profile.” The victim only needs to fit a general description and demographic for drone strikes to be approved against them.

Looking at an international scope, it is clear that drone strikes violate humanitarian law. Law dictates that individuals are protected unless they pose an immediate threat which only fatal force can stop. Not only does this infringe on the rights of innocent people but it also harms global relations with sovereign countries.

With psychological torture imposed, it is no surprise that negative sentiments against the U.S. has increased to an exponential level. Further implications of drone strikes must be evaluated as they pose a future threat in deteriorating relations with other countries as well as killing innocent civilians.

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