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See No Evil: Drones and Public Opinion

Authors: Sarah E. Kreps, and John Kaag
October 4, 2013
Journal of Ethics and International Affairs


In 2012, U.S. drone strikes occured most often in which nation?

If you don't know, don't feel too bad. You're not alone. You could just admit it and join the 27 percent of Americans who report that they haven't a clue. Or you could guess, give the wrong answer, and join the 60 percent of Americans who just plain get it wrong.

Many people know this answer first-hand, but they tend not to be Americans, and for them the answer has a non-trivial significance.

A large majority (65 percent) of Americans claim that they have heard a lot about the U.S. drone program in recent months. This is a significant increase from a year ago. But what they've heard hasn't furnished the answer to this most basic question about the purpose and nature of targeted killings. This makes sense, since the media often focuses on what is most important to its readers: namely, themselves. This is why the death of Americans in targeted killings dominated the Brennan hearings and why the mere prospect of domestic surveillance has taken center stage in the drone debate. But this means that most of us remain ill-equipped to explain the when and where of U.S. drone strikes as they currently take place.

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