Are US Drone Strikes in South Asia, Middle East Ethical?
For many Americans, the use of armed drones is a necessity of our times. According to survey data, most see them as an integral part of the war on terror launched more than a decade ago in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. On a global scale, however, Americans supportive of armed drone use, represent a minority viewpoint that is being increasingly challenged by those questioning both the ethics and the legality behind the use of such aircraft.
Officially defined as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have many applications, including civilian, but are today primarily associated with their military purpose of targeting and killing those whom the U.S. government defines as terrorists or their supporters in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Armed drones were also in use in Iraq, but after American troops withdrew from the country late last year, the U.S. has reportedly limited the application of drones there to surveillance activities.
Unmanned aerial vehicle technology has been in the works for decades but became more refined in the 1990s. The first use of a drone in a targeted killing was recorded in Afghanistan in 2002.
Since then, armed drone use has multiplied exponentially. According to a study by the Middle East Policy Council, the frequency of U.S. drone strikes has increased from two instances during the period of 2002 and 2004 to 161 between 2009 and 2010. Growing with the numbers were the casualties of these operations. The strikes conducted between 2002 and 2004, according to the same study, resulted in the deaths of two high value targets and killed eleven others. The strikes between 2009 and 2010 killed seven high value targets, causing the deaths of 1,029 others. The report does not specify whether “others” killed in these strikes were also intended targets or untargeted victims.
If it was unethical to for countless civilians to be slaughtered remorselessly during the Vietnam War then it should be just as unethical for countless civilians to be slaughtered remorselessly in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, etc. during this so-called "War on Terror", right?