Muftic: Drone warfare |

Muftic: Drone warfare

Felicia Muftic / My View Grand County, CO Colorado

The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.- John Lyly in Euphues, 1578Lyly’s comments may hold true today in matters of love, but the lack of any rules in warfare no longer works because the nature of war has changed. The agony of defining what is or should be “fair” in warfare got a public airing this month in discussions about the use of drones.In Lyly’s day, swords and pikes, cannons and muskets were the weapons of choice. Disputes were settled by wars fought between armies.Modern warfare ranges from suicide bombers, roadside bombs, mass killings of civilians, and deployment of weapons capable of widespread and indiscriminate death. Drones are the newest delivery method.Even within the past 12 years, we have realized after invading Afghanistan that war is no longer just a matter of one country pitted against another or ethnic civil wars, but rather a war of ideologically motivated terrorist organizations with established histories of attacking the U.S. homeland and who cross borders. There is a practical downside to drones, too, which weighs in deciding their use. Such strikes are not considered fair by others. Per a Pew Survey in June 2012, “Global approval of President Barack Obama’s international policies has declined significantly. In nearly all countries surveyed, there is considerable opposition to … drone strikes.”Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander in Afghanistan, warned of “widespread resentment against drone strikes in Pakistan … hated on a visceral level, angering large numbers of potential allies.”The difficulties faced by decision-makers who have been issuing the licenses to kill got the spotlight in Congress and media. In his exit comments, Leon Panetta, outgoing secretary of Defense and former head of the CIA, referenced the conflict he felt personally between his Catholic faith and his duty to make life-and-death decisions.The White House released its own legal memo attempting to define rules, and to justify the killing of U.S. citizens in Yemen who had joined al-Qaida. The act was committed without the due process protections of our Constitution and a 16-year-old U.S. citizen was collateral damage. The public was made aware that the president himself signed off on a kill list, but we realized that without rules, it was solely a matter of trust in his judgment. Those who followed him could use the precedent he set, whether or not we trust their judgment.Unlike the world view of drone strikes, an overwhelming 83 percent of Americans in a Feb. 8 Washington Post poll approved of the use of drones to target terrorists (dropping to 65 percent if the target is a U.S. citizen). It appears Americans seem content to let the president, the CIA and the Pentagon carry on with drone strikes using self-devised rules, even when public relations downsides are considered.Some are torn between doing all we can to protect our national interests and doing it within our national traditions and standards. We are at war, but I find myself agreeing with thoughts of some senators, who believe there needs to be a judicial body trusted with classified information at least to provide a semblance of due process when Americans are added to a kill list. When targeting for drone assassinations of leaders of al-Qaida and its affiliate members, the question becomes one of practicality: How can best we scotch a terrorist threat to us and which method causes the least loss of innocent lives, or the lesser cost to the U.S. in blood and treasure? By those measures alone, drone warfare beats invading a country, even when the highest estimate of the numbers of civilian casualties in drone strikes are counted. War is hell, but drones are a “fairer” hell.For more, visit and

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