It remains to be seen how much policy is likely to change as a result of Obama’s speech. How significant is it for the sovereign to openly admit to the exercise of exceptional power? Does this shine a light on these actions, or does it simply create a more carefree environment where the open and bombastic disregard for all sorts of national and international forms of oversight and restrictions on sovereign power contributes to more flagrant violations? At any rate, this has all led to increased debate and discussion on the matter of drone strikes, which ought to be a good thing. The extent to which drones are not a panacea but are nonetheless treated as such by the current US administration – and other states ready to mimic these actions – in some small and hopefully significant way, it would seem that the cat is out of the bag.
On Thursday (23 Oct) President Obama gave a much-trailed speech on counterterrorism, large parts of which focused on the US use of drones. At the same time a ‘fact sheet’ on US policy on the use of force outside declared wars was published, as was a transcript of a background briefing given by senior US officials to journalists. All of these documents give some insight into the US use of drones.
In the speech President Obama accepted many of the criticisms that we and others have made over the past four years including (as he put it)
- The power that arise from “the technology to strike half a world” can lead to abuses
- To say “a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral”
- The use of “force alone cannot make us safe” and that “a perpetual war – through drones or Special…
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