Rethinking the Drone War: National Security, Legitimacy, and Civilian Casualties in U.S. Counterterrorism Operations   [open pdf - 7MB]

"The years since 9/11 have seen an evolution in U.S. national security practices with respect to counterterrorism operations, particularly when it comes to lethal force via the use of armed drones, also known as un-manned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Drones constitute a recent addition to the long list of technological advancements in warfighting over time, a list that includes the development of the crossbow, gunpowder-powered projectile weapons, chemical weapons in World War I, and rockets and jet aircraft in World War II. The most advanced drones-the armed Predator and Reaper models-offer persistent surveillance as well as the ability to engage targets from almost anywhere across the globe, without a requirement for forces on the ground. This extended reach offers a clear example of how advances in technology can provide a new and effective option for using lethal force. Technological advancements and changing security practices affecting the use of force raise important ethical and practical questions, such as whether the technologies and practices should be used in warfare and whether self-imposed limits are appropriate for their responsible use, which can be addressed through national policy decisions, as well as such international laws and standards as the principles of humanity enshrined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The modern counterterrorism context is no exception. U.S. national security practices, especially those involving armed drones, have raised numerous questions related to ethics and practicality. This volume is a collection of four reports that collectively address these issues by exploring the themes of legitimacy, civilian protection, and national security interests."

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