School of Politics and International Studies

Responsibility to Protect Student Journal

Posts tagged with: sovereignty

Are armed drones effective for counterterrorism? Are they legal?

Mathias Gjesdal Hammer, University of Cambridge, UK

Mathias is a first year student studying Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University.

In a political situation in which the idea of committing yet more US troops to the Middle East is increasingly toxic, unmanned aerial vehicles have become the weapon of choice. Government officials often present drones as an ideal weapon and claim that drones can eliminate enemy militants much more efficiently than traditional weapons and without putting American lives at risk. While drones certainly do have a limited use in the battle against terrorism, the lack of transparency and the very nature of drone strikes risk angering large numbers of the civilian population in areas of intensive drone strikes. As such, the effectiveness and relative precision of drone strikes as a tactic must be carefully considered and weighed against other concerns within a larger strategy of counterterrorism. Additionally, US drone strikes are often justified on legally dubious grounds and many types of drones strikes clearly seem to violate international law. In a world in which weaponized drones are becoming increasingly common, it seems crucial for any US counterterrorism strategy to include clear accountability for drone strikes and to limit them to when all other options have truly been exhausted.

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