US News and World Report: Brennan and Obama’s Drone Playbook Must Be Debated Publicly

Op-ed by C. Dixon Osburn.

John Brennan has said U.S. drone policy is “establishing precedents that other nations may follow, and not all of them [read China, Russia, Iran] will be nations that share our interests or the premium we put on protecting human life, including innocent civilians.” He’s right. Drone technology is proliferating faster than norms to govern it, so U.S. practice is setting the rules of the road by default. That’s a problem.

Drones are not inherently wrong. Targeted killing in wartime is always preferable to its opposite—indiscriminate killing. But lethal targeting is lawful in very limited circumstances outside of wartime, and for good reason. The United States now relies so heavily on drones for its counterterrorism strategy (some would say it has become the strategy) that it is twisting the concept of “war” and the definitions of “imminent threat” and “infeasibility of capture” designed to ensure that war is an exceptional state of affairs, and that lethal force outside of war is used as a last resort to interrupt immediate threats.



Published on February 5, 2013


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