The CIA is reportedly asking the Obama administration for loosened rules in its use of drone attacks in Yemen in order to strike more frequently at potential terrorist activity. The agency wants to expand this use “even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed.” Should we be concerned?
Asking for this loosening of rules suggests the current rules are of the highest standard. One can only assume the strikes being carried out in Yemen now are only involving people who have the most detailed evidence against them showing they are without a doubt an enemy. So is this true? Apparently not.
According to the article, “The Long War Journal, a Web site that tracks drone operations, estimates that there have been 27 strikes in Yemen since 2009 and that 198 militants and 48 civilians have been killed.” This means with the “toughest” rules in place for the drone strikes, the ratio of terrorist to civilian killed is 4 to 1. With the loosening of the rules, would the potential for civilian deaths increase and what would the new ratio be? 3 to 1? Possibly 2 to 1?
This information raises two important questions. The first question: how many terrorists tend to be created when a civilian is accidentally killed by a drone strike? Anyone who has an innocent friend or family member killed by a foreign entity because of that entity’s ’cause’ in life generally wants retribution. Think of how we as Americans felt after 9/11. This isn’t meant to draw any comparisons between the actions themselves but only to compare the feelings and reactions in the aftermath. When people see the blood of their countrymen spilled, they want blood in return. It’s only human. Why should we expect the people of Yemen, Iraq, or Pakistan’s reaction to be any different from our own?
So if the current ratio is 4 to 1, are we creating more than four new terrorists with every civilian killed? Even if we are only creating four with every civilian death, the current policy would be nullifying itself. (All of this assumes that non-terrorist friends and family members in these countries have no feelings for terrorists when they are killed by drones. Assuredly an inaccurate assumption but let’s just assume for now.) Which brings us to the second and more important question.
What is ‘acceptable’ in terms of a terrorist to civilian casualty ratio with these loosened rules? Or maybe another way to ask that: what is ‘unacceptable’?