The United States government was built on what is called the “system of checks and balances.” It was designed specifically so not one part of the government could have all the power. However, Obama’s ability to call for drone strikes himself without any other clearance is an outrageous breach of this American political ideal.
Along with the American public outcry, the ripples of the U.S. drone policy have moved passed American politics and caused a stir in the international community. This issue has gained so much notoriety that the United Nations has begun an investigation to determine the legality of the drone program. The investigation, led by Ben Emmerson, is to focus on legal justification for an expansive drone program.
However, it’s hard to see how they could find one.
As international human rights lawyer Jessica Corsi told the Huffington Post, “Illegality, immorality and ineffectiveness … I would argue that the current drone policy employed by the United States and by Israel, are, to some extent, all three.”
The legal issues surrounding drone usage breaks domestic laws and has been questioned by both internal and international experts. International law expert and University of Notre Dame professor Mary Ellen O’Connell argues that international law authorizes nations to kill people in other countries for three reasons; self-defense to an armed attack, with authorization from the United Nations, or assisting another country in their lawful use of force. In a 2010 report, the U.N. has also established that drone killings may be lawful during an armed conflict, but must be within the field of battle. New York University law professor and U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston said “outside the context of armed conflict, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”
The immoral aspect of the use of drones has also been brought up. When one man has no oversight on what he can and cannot do, that system has the potential to be misused on a very large scale. Not one person should control that much power. There needs to be the establishment of some balance, some force that takes all of this power from one person.
Despite the legal and moral arguments against the drone program, the biggest outcry by far has been due to the ineffectiveness of drone attacks; according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 474 and 881 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone. However, this number may actually be higher because of the criteria used to determine civilian casualties against militant casualties. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration considers any “military-aged male” as hostile, and their deaths do not get counted as civilian casualties. This fact, alone, means there are potentially hundreds of deaths of innocent men who just happen to fall within a certain demographic.
Don’t get me wrong, Obama has been doing an excellent job as president; the DOW is back to pre-recession levels, unemployment is down and he’s pushing for a ban on assault rifles, however, I find the current drone policy very unsettling.
While other countries are moving towards drones as well, it’s the United States that is setting the precedent for the usage. It’s up to the U.S. to lead the world in the right direction on this matter. A drone should not be considered any different than a bomber. Obama and the rest of America needs to come to realize this before everything gets even more out of hand.