Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

The M-Q 9 Reaper, an armed, multi-mission remotely piloted aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. John Bainter/cc)

Military Experts: Killer Drones Will Trigger 'Slippery Slope' into Endless War

The use of drones as a 'pillar' of military policy raises significant strategic, legal and ethical questions, warns a high-level panel of military and foreign policy experts.

Lauren McCauley

The embrace of killer drones by the United States government is likely to increase anti-U.S. sentiment, erode national sovereignty and trigger a "slippery slope" into endless war, a prominent military and intelligence panel warned in a new report published Thursday.

Recommendations and Report of the Task Force on United States Drone Policy (pdf) is the result of a year-long study by a high-level task force of military, intelligence and foreign policy experts assembled by the nonpartisan Stimson Center.

In the report, the panel warns that the proliferation of killer drones as a "pillar of U.S. counterterrorism strategy" has enabled policies that "likely would not have been adopted in the absence of UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]," particularly the "extraordinarily broad" interpretation of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF.

Echoing the concerns of many anti-war groups, the panel notes that the increasing use of lethal drones "may create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars."

The report continues:

The seemingly low-risk and low-cost missions enabled by UAV technologies may encourage the United States to fly such missions more often, pursuing targets with UAVs that would be deemed not worth pursuing if manned aircraft or special operation forces had to be put at risk.

UAVs also create an escalation risk insofar as they may lower the bar to enter a conflict, without increasing the likelihood of a satisfactory outcome.

The report argues that the use of drones in an "unprecedented and expanding way" raises significant strategic, legal and ethical questions. 

Among the strategic risks, the group argues that "blowback" from civilian casualties may "increase anti-U.S. sentiment and become a potent recruiting tool for terrorist organizations."

Further, the panel says that the United States' unilateral targeting of individuals in foreign sovereign states "may encourage other states to follow suit with their own military platforms or commercial entities."

“There is no indication that a U.S. strategy to destroy Al Qaeda has curbed the rise of Sunni Islamic extremism, deterred the establishment of Shia Islamic extremist groups or advanced long-term U.S. security interests."

Citing the failure on the part of the American government to carry out a thorough analysis weighing the costs and benefits of continuing their drone war, the report concedes: “There is no indication that a U.S. strategy to destroy Al Qaeda has curbed the rise of Sunni Islamic extremism, deterred the establishment of Shia Islamic extremist groups or advanced long-term U.S. security interests."

Despite this, and the panel's criticisms regarding the U.S. government's lack of transparency and the risks inherent in the use of drones, the report concludes on the assumption that killer drones will continue to be a fundamental tool in military operations.

Thus, the panel issued the below list of recommendations, quoted from the report, to shape and guide U.S. drone policy:

  1. Conduct a strategic review of the role of lethal UAVs in targeted counterterrorism strikes;
  2. Improve transparency in targeted UAV strikes;
  3. Transfer general responsibility for carrying out lethal UAV strikes from the CIA to the military;
  4. Develop more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of hot battlefields;
  5. Foster the development of appropriate international norms for the use of lethal force outside traditional battlefields;
  6. Assess UAV-related technological developments and likely future trends, and create an interagency research and development strategy geared toward advancing US national security interests in a manner consistent with US values;
  7. Review and reform UAV-related export control rules and FAA rules, with a view to minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the development of the US UAV industry, while still safeguarding US national security interests and ensuring responsible UAV development and use; and
  8. Accelerate the FAA’s efforts to meet the requirements of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Bill.

Responding to the report's release, Steve Vladeck, co-editor in chief of the Just Security blog, who was part of one of the "working groups" that gave informal advice to the task force, wrote: "Folks won’t necessarily agree with all of its recommendations (or believe that they go far enough), but given the Task Force’s bipartisan, high-level composition, its recommendations will be ignored at its readers’ peril."

_____________________


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·


Looming US Supreme Court Climate Decision Could 'Doom' Hope for Livable Future

"The immediate issue is the limits of the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases," said one scientist. "The broader issue is the ability of federal agencies to regulate anything at all."

Jessica Corbett ·


Supreme Court Takes 'Wrecking Ball' to Separation of Church and State With Prayer Ruling

After decades of affirming that prayers led by school officials are unconstitutional, said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, "the court now charts a different path."

Julia Conley ·


Louisiana Judge Blocks State's Post-Roe Abortion Ban

"Abortion care will resume in the state and a hearing has been set for July 8th," said the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressives Launch 'Four More' Campaign to Demand Supreme Court Expansion

"In a true democracy, power rests with the people," one campaigner asserted. "And the only way to take our power back is to take back the court."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo