Top Pro & Con Arguments

Pro

Drones limit the scope, scale, and casualties of military action.

Invading Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia with boots on the ground to capture relatively small terrorist groups would lead to expensive conflict, responsibility for destabilizing the governments of those countries, large numbers of civilian casualties, empowerment of enemies who view the United States as an occupying imperialist power, and U.S. military deaths, among other consequences. America’s attempt to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan by invading and occupying the country resulted in a war that has dragged on for over 12 years. Using drone strikes against terrorists abroad allows the United States to achieve its goals at a fraction of the cost of an invasion in money, manpower, lives, and other political consequences. [142] [143]

Drones are launched from bases in allied countries and are operated remotely by pilots in the United States, minimizing the risk of injury and death that would occur if ground soldiers and airplane pilots were used instead. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their affiliates often operate in distant and environmentally unforgiving locations where it would be extremely dangerous for the United States to deploy teams of special forces to track and capture terrorists. Such pursuits would pose serious risks to U.S. troops including firefights with surrounding tribal communities, anti-aircraft shelling, land mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombers, snipers, dangerous weather conditions, and harsh environments. [10] [18]

Further, drone pilots suffer less than traditional pilots because they do not have to be directly present on the battlefield, can live a normal civilian life in the United States, and do not risk death or serious injury. Only 4% of active-duty drone pilots are at “high risk for PTSD” compared to the 12-17% of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. [46]

The traditional weapons of war – bombs, shells, mines, mortars – cause more collateral (unintended) damage to people and property than drones, whose accuracy and technical precision mostly limit casualties to combatants and intended targets. Civilians account for just 7% to 15% of those killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen between 2013 and 2020. In the Korean, Vietnam, and Balkan Wars, civilian deaths accounted for approximately 70%, 31%, and 45% of deaths respectively. Civilian deaths in World War II are estimated to be 40% to 67% of total war deaths. [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [131]

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates states, “You can far more easily limit collateral damage with a drone than you can with a bomb, even a precision-guided munition, off an airplane.” And former CIA Director Leon Panetta and former State Department Legal Advisor Harold Hongju Koh concur, both using the word “precise” to describe drone strikes. [149] [150] [151] [152]

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