Prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US considered the use of drones in targeted strikes to fall too close to “extrajudicial killings” for general use. The US’s position changed drastically after those attacks, and the use of drones for such strikes continues, despite early errors in targeting. While advocates of the use of drones point to their precision and ability to keep American pilots out of harm’s way, critics point out the ease at which these strikes can be conducted. It becomes too simple to err on the side of poor intelligence and conduct strikes that not only fail to achieve intended results, but also terrorize civilians nearby. The author explores the implications of this new dimension of warfare that complicates legal, ethical, and humanitarian lines that were more easily understood before the “war on terror” began.
About the author: Hugh Gusterson is Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University. He is the author of Nuclear Rites and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex.