Will the Obama Administration limit drone strikes?

Jan 25, 2013

A U.S. Predator drone flies through the night sky over Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have killed more than a dozen al-Qaida leaders around the world. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Last week Senator John Kerry signaled a possible change of policy on the use of drones. During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, Kerry said “we cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation,” according to the LA Times. His comments came on the heels of a United Nations announcement. Its launching an investigation into U.S. and U.K. drone strikes at the request of Pakistan and two unidentified permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The investigation is tasked with determining if drone strikes have killed civilians. The investigation could change U.N. resolutions on drone strikes.

The Obama administration has publicly acknowledged targeted killing operations, justifying their usage because it protects American lives and prevents potential terrorist attacks. According to the Associated Press, there were 35 strikes in Pakistan in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, drone strikes rose to 117 in 2010. That number fell to 64 strikes in 2011 and 46 strikes in 2012. Although targeted killings through drones have been used by the U.S. as well as other countries, this war tactic has been met with disapproval. Other issues regarding the usage of drones have been raised. The American Civil Liberties Union have filed multiple lawsuits against the U.S. for killing civilians, eliminating targets without due process of law and the lack of oversight in this CIA program.

What are the strategic ramifications of drone use? How do they affect international relations? Is a policy shift likely?

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