Kennedy, 13 [“Drones: Legitimacy and Anti-Americanism”, Greg Kennedy is a Professor of Strategic Foreign Policy at the Defence Studies Department, King's College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, in Shrivenham, Parameters 42(4)/43(1) Winter-Spring 2013]
The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents areal challengeto the framework of established international law and it is both right as a matter of principle, and inevitable as a matter of political reality, that the international community should now be focusing attention on the standards applicable to this technological development, particularly its deployment in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency initiatives, and attempt to reach a consensus on the legality of its use, and the standards and safeguards which should apply to it.4 deliver deadly force is taking place in both public and official domains in the United States and many other countries.5 The four key features at the heart of the debate revolve around: who is controlling the weapon system; does the system of control and oversight violate international law governing the use of force; are the drone strikes proportionate acts that provide military effectiveness given the circumstances of the conflict they are being used in; and does their use violate the sovereignty of other nations and allow the United States to disregard formal national boundaries? Unless these four questions are dealt with in the near future the impact of the unresolved legitimacy issueswill have a number of repercussions forAmerican foreignand military policies: “Without anew doctrinefor the use of dronesthat is understandable to friends and foes, theUnited States risks achieving near-term tactical benefitsin killing terrorists while incurring potentially significant longer-term costs to its alliances, global public opinion, the war on terrorism and international stability.”6 This article will address only the first three critical questions. The question of who controls the drones during their missions is attracting a great deal of attention. The use of drones by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct “signature strikes” is the most problematic factor in this matter. Between 2004 and 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,461—up to 891 of them civilians.7 Not only is the use of drones by the CIA the issue, but subcontracting operational control of drones to other civilian agencies is also causing great concern.8 Questions remain as to whether subcontractors were controlling drones during actual strike missions, as opposed to surveillance and reconnaissance activities. Nevertheless, the intense questioning of John O. Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for director of the CIA in February 2013, over drone usage, the secrecy of their controllers and orders, and the legality of their missions confirmed the level of concern America’s elected officials have regarding the legitimacy of drone use. Furthermore, perceptions and suspicions of illegal clandestine intelligence agency operations, already a part of the public and official psyche due to experiences from Vietnam, Iran-Contra, and Iraq II and the weapons of mass destruction debacle, have been reinforced by CIA management of drone capability. Recent revelations about the use of secret Saudi Arabian facilities for staging American drone strikes into Yemen did nothing to dissipate such suspicions of the CIA’s lack of legitimacy in its use of drones.9 The fact that the secret facility was the launching site for drones used to kill American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in September 2011, both classified by the CIA as al-Qaeda-linked threats to US security, only deepened such suspicions. Despite the fact that Gulf State observers and officials knew about American drones operating from the Arabian peninsula for years, the existence of the CIA base was not openly admitted in case such knowledge should “ . . . damage counter-terrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.”10 The fallout from CIA involvement and management of drone strikes prompted Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to suggest the need for a court to oversee targeted killings. Such a body, she said, would replicate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees eavesdropping on American soil.11 Most importantly, such oversight would go a long way towards allaying fears of the drone usage lacking true political accountability and legitimacy. In addition, as with any use of force, drone strikes in overseas contingency operations can lead to increased attacks on already weak governments partnered with the United States. They can lead to retaliatory attacks on local governments and may contribute to local instability. Those actions occur as a result of desires for revenge and frustrations caused by the strikes. Feelings of hostility are often visited on the most immediate structures of authority—local government officials, government buildings, police, and the military.12 It can thus be argued that, at the strategic level, drone strikes are fuelling anti-American resentment among enemies and allies alike. Those reactions are often based on questions regarding the legality, ethicality, and operational legitimacy of those acts to deter opponents. Therefore, specifically related to the reaction of allies, the military legitimacy question arises ifthe use of drones endangers vital strategic relationships.13 One of the strategic relationships being affected by the drone legitimacy issue is that of the United States and the United Kingdom. Targeted killing, by drone strike or otherwise, is not the sole preserve of the United States. Those actions, however, attract more negative attention to the United States due to its prominence on the world’s stage, its declarations of support for human rights and democratic freedoms, and rule-of-lawissues, all which appear violated by such strikes. This complexity and visibility make such targeted killings important for Anglo-American strategic relations because of the closeness of that relationship and the perception that Great Britain, therefore, condones such American activities. Because the intelligence used in such operations is seen by other nations as a shared Anglo-American asset, the use of such intelligence to identify and conduct such killings, in the opinion those operations.14 Finally, the apparent gap between stated core policies and values and the ability to practice targeted killings appears to be a starkly hypocritical and deceitful position internationally, a condition that once again makes British policymakers uncomfortable with being tarred by such a brush.15 The divide between US policy and action is exacerbated by dronetechnology, which makesthe once covert practice of targeted killing commonplace and undeniable. It may also cause deep-rooted distrust due to a spectrum of legitimacy issues. Such questions will, therefore, undermine the US desire to export liberaldemocratic principles. Indeed, itmay be beneficial for Western democracies to achieve adequate rather than decisive victories, thereby setting an example of restraint for the international order.16 The United States must be willing to engage and deal with drone-legitimacy issues across the entire spectrum of tactical, operational, strategic, and political levels to ensure its strategic aims are not derailed by operational and tactical expediency.