Obama's "war of the machines" - The effects and possible future of the United States' drone program

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IBS Blog is continuing its efforts to bring you intriguing topics from around the world. The team of Editors will publish an original article on interesting subjects each month in the realms of Finance, Marketing, Tourism, Human Resources, Foreign Affairs and Arts. We hope you enjoy our monthly updates and would love to encourage you to send us one-pagers you feel worth publishing on the blog. This week, we take a brief look into the United States’ drone program, its history, rationale and the human rights concerns surrounding the new wave of war against terrorism. President Barack Obama and his much publicized drone program made the news yet again, with an unusual dilemma. According to various press reports, a United States citizen, who was identified as an overseas Al-Qaeda facilitator may be the recent target of a drone attack overseas. Although it is not the first instance the Obama administration is taking direct, lethal action against an overseas, American-born operative, recently proposed changes to drone policies try to alter course. The start of the drone, or more officially, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program date back to the Cold War, where the aim of such devices were – technologically – restricted to reconnaissance. Nevertheless, the 9/11 attacks against the United States incidentally paved the way for both financing and the subsequent technological development of drones, designed to perform unmanned, surgical missions against enemies of the state. President Obama pledged to divert U.S. policies from the Bush administrations’ routine; closing down Guantanamo, ending military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and implementing actions - pre-approved by the Congress - against Al-Qaeda (and the alter egos thereof) proved more than difficult. The drone program, primarily a joint project of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as several other non-public entities entrusted with the protection of national security, proved to be an effective, quick-win strategy against foreign insurgency. Nevertheless, President Bush ordered seven times less drone attacks than President Obama, although the changing dynamics of the permanent war against terrorism, the immense development of drone-related technology and the overall shift towards a virtual warfare all contributed to this fact. According to various media reports, 2010 has been one of the most successful and brutal year of drone strikes in Pakistan; 788 militants fell victim to the strikes, along with 16 civilians and 48 unknown fatalities. In recent years, the fluctuations between those ratios appear to be decreasing, many stress human rights and moral issues. As many experts point out, the aim of saving American lives through drone strikes – as opposed the classic military interventions –is a benevolent one, efficiency may not be synonymous with legitimacy; numerous drone strikes are more often than not executed in countries – including Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan – against which the United States does not wage war – officially. According to various non-governmental reports, only in Yemen, these military actions claimed over 60 innocent lives in the past years. A legal grey-zone we might argue; the possible imminent threat against United States citizens versus individuals executed without any local – or international – litigation in countries where the United States does not have jurisdiction, against whom it does not wage war. A dilemma, which is even more obvious when decision-makers face a discrepancy much like the one above: a country’s own citizen, whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, is being targeted for crimes against the state, without the legal proceedings they would undoubtedly face were they to set foot on US soil. Obama’s new initiatives to provide legally accepted structures and routines for such actions hopefully would ease the above concerns and serve as a guideline for a new generation of military interventions to come. Nevertheless, the technological development brought about by the military budget – as always – seem to shape new ways for more commercial purposes. Amazon recently announced its plan to introduce “delivery drones,” also known as Amazon Prime Air, which would eventually revolutionize mail-order delivery as we know it. They are foreseeing to utilize their very own fleet of drones for delivering whatever we order from the world’s largest online store. Certainly, a more relaxing way of thinking of unmanned aerial vehicles. Sources: CNN.com, RT.com, New America Foundation, Washington Post