Justification of Drone Warfare Essay

Submitted By simon921
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Justification of Drone Warfare: Limiting Evil

It was ten years ago, February 4, 2002, that the CIA first used the unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing in Afghanistan (The Nation 2012). Since that day, there has been large controversy (foreign and domestic) on the justification of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It is crucial to look beyond public opinion and to begin rationally looking at data of different alternatives in warfare. Analyzing the elements of war and drone technology will help educated those on the importance of this new innovation. Former Air Force officer Bradley Strawser said, “You have to start by asking, as for any military action, is the cause just (Shane 2012)?” If the killing is legitimate, the fact that a drone, rather than a bomb or a gun targeted it makes no difference. Conventional military conflicts over the last two decades yielded estimated civilian casualties between thirty-three percent to more than eighty-percent of all deaths (Shane 2012). If the preservation of humanity is what our goal is, I believe that any mode of warfare reducing the amount of death is progress made. It seems sinful to debate over which mode of action to choose in the process of killing, but without riding the Earth entirely of all evil we must do our best to limit it at the very least. It is in the United States’ best interest to be seen as a leader in this new technology and how to safely use that technology in a responsible manner. I believe that drone warfare is a justifiable means of fighting because it fulfills the criterion of double effect and proportionality, likelihood of success, and infeasibility of being captured. All of these criterions support a notion of limiting destruction in warfare. Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of double effect and proportionality properly fit the criterion set for the usage of a drone in military action. Aquinas states:
“Nothing hinders a single act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts get their character in accordance with what is intended, but not from what is beside the intention, since the latter is incidental (Luban 2012 Summa Theologiae, II-II, question 64, article 7).” Aquinas addresses the issue of proportionality and its importance when determining if the action taken is greater in collateral damage than the significance in the action itself. One rough comparison concerning proportionality found that even if the highest estimates of collateral deaths are accurate, the drones kill fewer civilians than other modes of warfare (Shane 2012). Avery Plaw, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts, put the CIA drone record in Pakistan against the ratio of combatant deaths to civilian deaths in several settings. Mr. Plaw considered four studies of drone deaths in Pakistan that estimated the proportion of civilian victims at four-percent, six-percent, seventeen-percent, and twenty-percent (Shane 2012). Even the high-end count, twenty-percent was considerably lower than the rate in other settings found. When the Pakistani Army went after militants in the tribal region on the ground, forty-six percent of those killed were civilians. In Israel’s targeted killings of militants from Hamas and other groups, using a range of weapons from bombs to missile strikes, the collateral death rate was forty-one percent (Shane 2012). This strong evidence suggests that the use of drones in conducting military action passes the criterion of double effect and proportionality. In opposition there continues to be a miniscule amount of transparency on the topic of drones by the Obama administration as promised. The very first strike under the Obama administration in Yemen, on December 17th, 2009, is an example of the difficulties operating in unfamiliar territory. The drone strike killed not just the intended target but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs