The Drone Wars

Jul 23, 2013| Courtesy by :

Obama’s intended reforms to the drone program will end the war on terror


“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

By quoting President James Madison, President Obama, for the first time since taking office, has suggested the possibility of an end to the War on Terror. This war, which dominated both Bush-era and Obama-era foreign policy, may not be finished yet, but President Obama—in a momentous speech on Friday—has made it clear that he intends to commit to reforms which will shift America away from perpetual war after a decade of international conflict.

We welcome President Obama’s announcement that the operations of the CIA’s morally hazardous drone program will be transferred to the Pentagon and that there will be tougher standards for when drone strikes can be authorized, with targeted killings being scaled back. Limiting drone strikes to active war zones is the first step to removing America from a state of continuous warfare, and it will do much to ameliorate America’s abysmal reputation in countries that are often subject to CIA drone strikes. Further, the government’s admission that four Americans were killed in CIA drone strikes is also a welcome moment of transparency from an administration currently beleaguered by transparency-related scandals.

Obama’s speech addressed many proposed reforms to the U.S. military and foreign policy, including the closing down of Guantanamo Bay and a renewed focus on the war against Al-Qaeda. But the announcements concerning the CIA’s drone program carried particular weight given the increasingly large role played by unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. military operations.

It is clear that unmanned warfare is where the US military is headed, and we herald efforts made by the Obama administration to legitimate the military’s drone program by scaling back the extra-legal actions of the CIA. The United States currently operates 7,500 drones, which make up 40 percent of the Department of Defence Aircraft. The Air Force has been training more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined since 2009.

The CIA’s operation of merely 30 drones composes a fraction of the U.S.’ drone programs but is both constitutionally dubious and immensely damaging to the U.S.’ reputation abroad. Damningtestimony from an American-Yemeni Ibrahim Mothana for the Senate Judiciary Committee in April revealed that support for Al-Qaeda had likely grown in Yemen because of the CIA’s targeted drone strikes and prompted calls for the U.S. to drop the CIA drone program (including from The Crimson). Thus we approve of Obama administration’s ability to reform military policy, having apparently recognized the unconstitutionality of the actions undertaken by the CIA’s drone program and the repercussions on America’s reputation abroad.

Although Obama’s much-anticipated speech may have been a political manoeuvre given the recent scandals which have plagued the administration, the president’s admission that the U.S. was complicit in the targeted killings of its own citizens is a welcome moment of transparency. However, it appears that Obama’s emphasis on the shift away from perpetual war by limiting drone strikes to active war zones is more than just a political manoeuvre. Rather, we commend the President for progressing from the inertia of out-dated, preventative war tactics of the Bush Doctrine and understanding that drone strikes in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan merely serve to aid Al-Qaeda and its affiliates rather than undermine them.

For the Americans of this generation, President Obama’s speech is a potential springboard into a future where war does not preoccupy our foreign policy or our worries. We hope that the president follows through on his rhetoric and makes legitimate reforms to the U.S.’ use of drones.