Unmanned aircraft, or drones, have seen significant use throughout the United States’ war on terror in the Middle East. This strategy has received mixed feedback throughout its use, as successful missions and praise have been mixed with collateral damage and protest.
While President Barack Obama had appeared to minimize the issue with his pledge to reduce drone strikes, a suspected drone mission in Pakistan exemplifies what the U.S. military will be missing out on. Below is a discussion of this recent news and the argument it poses for the continuation of the U.S. drone program.
While both U.S. involvement and Rehman’s death have yet to be confirmed, this would certainly be deemed a success from the perspective of the U.S. military. Rehman was the mastermind behind a violent attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan and numerous other attacks on innocent people and soldiers in Pakistan. These horrific credentials led the U.S. government to offer a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts in 2010.
If this was indeed a successful drone strike, it comes with ironic timing, as just last week President Obama gave a speech in which he unveiled a plan to restrict drone strikes. These restrictions are motivated by voiced resistance from the Pakistani prime minister and the risk drone strikes carry for causing civilian deaths.
While President Obama’s planned restrictions are based on valid points, they fail to recognize the value of the U.S. drone program. As the strike on Rehman demonstrates, drones have a distinct advantage over other military attack strategies.
The worst-case scenario with a drone is much more agreeable than that of a manned aircraft or a ground unit. If a drone is targeted by defenses or receives interference due to missing emi gaskets, all that is at risk is a piece of technology. If a manned unit is lost, the consequences are obviously much greater. Drones are also a more cost-effective alternative in comparison to military jets with multi-million dollar price tags.
In terms of the main argument against drones, yes, sometimes drones miss their target and cause collateral damage. However, this is also the case with every other type of military action. If an attack has to be carried out, the margin for error is always there regardless of whether it’s a manned or unmanned aircraft.
While drone strikes tend to be an unpopular tactic and President Obama is openly restricting their use, completely eliminating them would be a mistake. If the U.S. military has to take specific action as in the case of Rehman, drone strikes should be at the top of the list in terms of possible strategies. I’m not saying overdo it and go drone-strike crazy, but keeping the option in reserve when action is necessary is a decision that can save U.S. lives, which is the point of our military operations in the first place.
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