Authors: Robert Matthews, Daniel L. Johnson, and Gretchen West
Better safe than sorry. Gretchen West (“Drone On,” May/ June 2015) argues that the growing U.S. drone industry “faces a major regulatory obstacle” in the form of the Federal Aviation Administration. She’s right that the agency needs to make some basic decisions about how to regulate drones—and soon, lest the United States surrender its technological edge.
Armed drones are starting to rule the skies, but the United States' monopoly over their use is fading. The Obama administration should nurture a regime to limit drone proliferation, similar to efforts to control nuclear weapons and missiles, write Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko.
The Obama administration relies on drones for one simple reason: they work. Drone strikes have devastated al Qaeda at little financial cost, at no risk to U.S. forces, and with fewer civilian casualties than many alternative methods would have caused.
President Obama has authorized ten times more drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, than his predecessor, George W. Bush. Micah Zenko argues that Obama’s embrace and vast expansion of drone strikes against militants and terrorists will be an enduring foreign policy legacy.
Micah Zenko discusses The Intercept’s “Drone Paper” Revelations and argues that the findings require a congressionally mandated investigation into the use of armed drones. Unfortunately, Zenko says, that is unlikely under the Obama administration.
A divergence of opinions between males and females is an "enduring characteristic of polls on the use of military force, regardless of the weapons system employed, military mission undertaken, whether the intervening force is unilateral or multilateral, and the strategic objective proposed," says Micah Zenko. Citing polls from the early 1990s to today, he investigates why this persistent difference in opinion exists and what it may mean for U.S. foreign policy.
Grounded in a realistic assessment of technology, Matthew C. Waxman and Kenneth Anderson outline a practical alternative with which to evaluate the use of autonomous weaponry that incorporates codes of conduct based on traditional legal and ethical principles governing weapons and warfare.
Carla Anne Robbins says, "The drone war isn't going away. As the U.S. slashes budgets, the lethality and cost-effectiveness of drone strikes will likely make them an even more attractive option. But that doesn't mean the current policy is wise or even sustainable."
Micah Zenko says, "Military officials increasingly believe that the Obama administration must think through its current practices and policies of targeted killings, and consider how they can be reformed, or risk others following in U.S. footsteps."
With the recent revelation of a United Nations inquiry into U.S. drone strikes policies and practices, Micah Zenko says the UN has actually been investigating U.S. drones for ten years—but to no effect.
Micah Zenko examines the public comments of John Brennan, Obama's closest adviser for intelligence and counterterrorism issues, and finds that there are seven half-truths and direct contradictions between stated U.S. policies and actual practices.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »