Archive for June 13, 2012
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – popularly known as drones – to attack and kill al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents is being questioned again not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan but around the world.
According to polling done by the Pew Research Center, America’s image has slipped with many people around the world because of U.S. Foreign policy – particularly counter terrorism actions like drone strikes. The 21-nation survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project from March 17-April 20 .
In 17 of 20 countries (the U.S. was the 21st) Pew researchers found more than half of those polled disapprove of U.S. drone strikes in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In the U.S., however, 62 percent approve of the unmanned aircraft attacks whether Republican (74 percent), independent (60 percent) or Democrat (58 percent).
Recent drone strikes have stirred up animosity in parts of the Muslim world. Pakistan, in particular, has chafed at what it sees as violations of its sovereignty as well as a tactic that causes civilian casualties.
But U.S. officials say the drones can strike at America’s enemies without putting service members in harm’s way. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was unapologetic in India last week about the U.S. need to defend itself, the Associated Press reported.
A June 4 drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the Afghan border killed a senior leader of al Qaeda – Abu Yahya al-Libi. Following Osama bin Laden’s death last year, U.S. officials said they believed Libi became al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader behind Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri. It was reported that 14 people may have been killed in the attack on Libi.
Meanwhile, 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written to President Obama calling for legal justification of certain drone strikes and warning that “they can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”
In their June 12 letter, the lawmakers – 24 Democrats and two Republicans led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) — said they are concerned about so-called “signature strikes” where the Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Special Operations Command have reportedly been authorized to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence signatures – patterns of behavior that indicate the presence of an important operative or plot against U.S. Interests. An April Washington Post report on the new drone strike authorization was cited in the letter to Obama.
The issue of drones came up today at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) annual conference. Speakers at the Washington think tank’s gathering in Washington discussed U.S. security policy in a changing world.
In response to an audience question, Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter said that a world in which “you can target individuals rather than having to invade countries is probably better … but only if there are very careful rules and institutions around it.”
Anyone can make a drone, she noted, adding: “We do not want a world in which we are saying ‘It’s fine. We can decide who a drone can take out.’ We will suffer enormously” for setting that precedent. Instead, Slaughter, who was the Obama administration’s State Department director of policy planning for two years, said the White House should recognize the need for international rules on the lethal use of drones “even if they restrain us.”