When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its “torture report” in December 2014, it reignited the battle over the George W. Bush administration’s conduct of the “war on terror.” Unfortunately, the interrogation program was not an anomaly in its lack of transparency. A similar problem exists with the U.S. drone program—which, after more than ten years of use and nearly two years after President Barack Obama’s speech promising greater transparency and accountability, remains shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty.
If an internal critique of the U.S. drone program exists, it has been kept from open discussion and debate. Yet the most basic questions about the program have not been answered: What are the goals of the program? Are drones effective in accomplishing those goals? What metric is used to evaluate their effectiveness? Such queries arise at an important moment in American history. The Obama administration is faced with defining its legacy. The administration, which inherited two wars, has struggled with the dilemma of winding down military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time that threats from new adversaries have created new challenges for U.S. and international security. In response, the administration has relied heavily on the use of drones, which has allowed them to avoid further on-the-ground engagement, but has raised many legal, ethical and strategic questions in the United States and around the world.
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