Exercise: Try To Say Something

New York Times Editorial

In the more than 16 years since the terror attacks of 9/11, the United States has relied increasingly on drones to kill people away from the battlefield. It has faced few constraints. Now an overdue push for greater accountability and transparency is gathering steam, propelled by growing unease that America’s drones hit targets in countries with whom it is not formally at war, that there are no publicly understood rules for picking targets, and that the strikes may kill innocent civilians and harm, not help, American interests.

Stanley McChrystal, the retired general, has warned that drone strikes are so resented abroad that their overuse could jeopardize America’s broader objectives. The former secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke at his confirmation hearing of the need to make sure that “American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone.”

Drones have obvious advantages. The unmanned vehicles, whose controllers may be hundreds of miles away at a remote base, can hover silently over a target for hours, transmitting images and sound, and then strike quickly if needed. The administration says the use of drones has taken many enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced civilian casualties.

But skeptics abound. John Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser most responsible for the program, when he faced a Senate confirmation hearing as President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director was questioned closely about the strikes: their purpose, legal justification and relationship to broader American foreign policy aims.

For years, Mr. Obama stretched executive power to claim that the 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda gave him the unilateral authority to order people, including American citizens, killed away from any battlefield without judicial oversight or public accountability. He took a step in the right direction in 2013 when he directed the Justice Department to give Congressional committees its classified legal advice on targeting Americans.

Officials say they only target belligerents covered by the 2001 legislation, but the public has no way of knowing under what criteria these targets are chosen. Nor does it know, absent publicly stated rules, how the 2001 law will be interpreted by newly-elected President Trump. We await an explanation on whether there is any check on presidential decision-making, especially when American citizens are targeted, and whether targeted killings are creating more militants than they are eliminating.

The White House has said it is still developing rules for when to kill terrorists. Meanwhile, the United States has conducted more than 400 total strikes in at least three countries — Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — killing more than 3,000 people in its war on Al Qaeda. The majority killed were part of a C.I.A. covert program begun in 2004 and aimed at militants in Pakistan. At a minimum, United States rules should specify that no one can be killed unless actively planning or participating in terror, or helping lead the Taliban in Pakistan or Al Qaeda. Killing should be authorized only when it can be demonstrated that capture is impossible. Standards for preventing the killing of innocents who might be nearby should be detailed and thorough.

Investigators for the United Nations Human Rights Council are busy studying the “exponential rise” in drone strikes in counterterrorism operations. More than 50 nations have or are trying to get the technology. The United States will set the standard for them all.

The Exercise

Based on the lecture “Try To Say Something,” write between 1 and 3 sentences taking a clearly-stated position regarding the United States’ use of drones to kill people away from the battlefield. Avoid any vague language. Be clear, bold, and specific.

Use the Reply field below to record your work.

14 Responses to Exercise: Try To Say Something

  1. nickalodeansallthat says:

    Drone strikes are a clear abuse of Americas power in the Middle East, and are used to illicit a form of superiority under the guise of counter terrorism protection

  2. kingoflizards says:

    The fact that the president has ” the unilateral authority” to kill anybody he chooses is unacceptable. Drone strikes are clearly not something to be taken lightly, as countries around the world are becoming outraged at the frequent usage of these drones. The usage of drones and any kinds of bombings in the future should be decided by a group, and not just the President.

  3. therealmoana says:

    The over usage of drone strikes could jeopardize America’s border objective says the retired general Stanley McChrystal.
    Obama made a smart decision when he directed the Justice Department to give Congressional committees its classified legal advice on targeting Americans in 2013.

  4. studentwriter1212 says:

    Drone strikes taking place in the middle east are not rational and President Obama provided no reasoning on why they are still taking place. They pose a threat towards the safety of the world and the country with the new standard of weaponry being used in counter terrorism programs.

  5. therealjohnsanchez says:

    America’s use of drones is seemingly unregulated and can be easily abused.

  6. nobinaryneeded says:

    America is abusing it’s power in the Middle East by using drones to watch and attack suspected terrorists. After 9/11 they are more wary and have been attacking more so on Al Qaeda, though over the years it has become more prominent in other countries, killing those away from the battlefield.

  7. chancetoremember says:

    Drones are a very dangerous weapon, therefore they should only be used in situations where the level of safety is extremely low. These war based machines belong in war zones and war zones only. They should not be applicable anywhere outside of the battlefield.

  8. torthey says:

    By claiming “unilateral authority” and control over drone strikes, President Obama has set a dangerous precedent for the future of global warfare. New militaristic technology should be held to the same accountability as past techniques.

  9. chippy1313 says:

    President Obama made a crucial decision when he directed the Justice Department to give Congressional committees classified legal advice on targeting Americans. Drones are a threat to people all over the world and innocent people are being killed. By allowing the use of drones to kill at any given time gives too much power to one person.

  10. aeks123 says:

    Drones have clear advantages including the ability to hover around silently for hours while transmitting images and sound; however, their overuse could cause serious damage to America’s foreign policy objectives by killing unmanned citizens.

  11. greeneggsandham234 says:

    The unilateral authority to kill using drone strikes is abuse of power. The fact that the President can use drone strikes in countries we are not at war with without question is unacceptable.

  12. romanhsantiago says:

    I think drone strikes are justifiable if they help avoid civilian casualties. If there is an easy way to eliminate an enemy that cannot be captured than it should be utilized. I would rather take one life with a drone than have a bunch of civilian casualties if soldiers were to attempt the mission.

  13. thecommonblackhawk says:

    Use of drones by the U.S. Military has proven successful through being capable of long term surveillance of terrorists. While it is argued that drones lead to civilian deaths, the amount of civilians killed in “ground combat” is substantially higher due to fog of war and the limited amount of time for surveillance. Drones provide constant overwatch allowing the drone operator to pick the safest time to strike minimizing civilian casualties while also keeping our ground troops safe, none of which possible during ground operations.

  14. starbucks732 says:

    Drones do have advantages however, the decision of if they should be used or not should not be decided by only one person. They are extremely dangerous and using them in countries that the United States is not at war with should not be allowed.

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