Opinion: Drones cannot soar above bounds of legality


Does the President reserve the right to kill suspected terrorists at will? Congress should have a say.

During his presidency, Barack Obama has increasingly utilized drone strikes as a means to carry out counterterrorism missions in the Middle East without jeopardizing the lives of American troops. With his word, a soldier safe in the confines of a building somewhere can control a drone and fire at a pre-designated target. However, as these strikes increase in regularity, the American populace begins to question the legality behind them. Who has designated President Obama to solely decide who deserves to die and who is able to live? Why does Congress not have any involvement in these strikes? These questions have led to a pervading demand for a revision of the legislation on drone strikes. No one yet knows what that revision would entail (or even if it will occur) but this is what it should contain:

1) A revision to the intelligence collection necessary for a drone strike. Each strike is intended to take out a “militant” or “enemy combatant.” But how does the President decide who exactly is an “enemy combatant?” He does it by examining intelligence and determining an outcome from that. But as it is, the intelligence that our agencies gain is not always completely accurate. There is a lapse in strong, inquisitive research being done, which leads to poor choices of targets and the deaths of innocent civilians. So, first and foremost in this revision is a change in intelligence gathering to make it better and more trustworthy.

2) Congress needs to get involved. They can no longer be allowed to sit by and have no say in these strikes. On the other hand, they can’t get too bogged down with the details as to make them unproductive in other facets. In order to accomplish this goal effectively, Congress must be presented a dossier on every intended target, review it, and then quickly conduct a vote for approval. No bartering or persuasion, just cold, hard facts and a simple yes/no decision. This will get the representatives involved and therefore reflect the will of the people instead of the will of a singular man.

3) There needs to be an effective and enforced revision policy of strikes. After each strike, a committee needs to review the intended target, the actual target, and the collateral damage inflicted by the strike. In retrospect, they will judge how well the target was picked and then how well the strike was carried out. And, if they find an unsatisfactory killing, they will bring this to the President with specific consequences to be suffered from it. This will curtail random slaughtering of civilians, because repercussions will now be enforced as a result of a poor choice of victim.

Drone strikes are the military technology of the future, but it’s time to start making them transparent and effective. This mighty power should not rest solely in the hands of one leader, but instead should belong to the myriad representatives appointed by the people. It is in this way that we will ensure the protection and integrity of our national security and personal safety.