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.
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.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Koblentz argues that the United States should work with other nuclear-armed states to manage threats to nuclear stability in the near term and establish processes for multilateral arms control efforts over the longer term.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 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 »