Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies

An interesting piece from Micah Zenko, at Foreign Policy, "Target Window."

Zenko's an expert on these systems, apparently, but he still falls into the trap of fingering the Bush administration as the bad guy in the evolving regime of drone warfare. He corrects himself, implicitly, with this passage correctly putting the onus on the Obama administration for a public reconciliation of drone policy in line with both U.S. interests and values:
If the United States hopes to have normative influence on how others use drones -- and administration officials repeatedly claim that they do -- then U.S. leadership must provide a legal framework, a coherent and plausible explanation of the scope of legitimate targets, and a rationale for how targeted killings are coordinated with broader foreign policy objectives. The problem is that the administration's public articulation of its drone strike policies -- used only against specific senior al Qaeda officials who pose an imminent threat to the U.S. homeland -- are fundamentally at odds with how they are actually employed, such as the use of signature strikes against suspected militants predominantly engaged in domestic insurgencies.

To address these issues, the Obama administration should bring its drone strike practices in line with its stated policies by: exclusively limiting its targeted killings to the leadership of al Qaeda or those with a direct operational role in past or ongoing terrorist plots; immediately ending the practice of signature strikes, or publically explaining how they plausibly meet the principles of distinction and proportionality; and reviewing the current policy whereby the executive authority for drone strikes is split between the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command, which have different legal authorities, degrees of permissible transparency, and oversight.