Rethinking the Drone War: National Security, Legitamacy and Civilian Casualties in U.S. Counterterrorism Operations

Rethinking the Drone War: National Security, Legitamacy and Civilian Casualties in U.S. Counterterrorism Operations
Rethinking the Drone War: National Security, Legitimacy and Civilian Casualties in U.S. Counterterrorism Operations
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Drones constitute a recent addition to the long list of technological advancements in warfighting over time, a list that includes the development of the crossbow, gunpowder-powered projectile weapons, chemical weapons in World War I, and rockets and jet aircraft in World War II. The most advanced drones—the armed Predator and Reaper models—offer persistent surveillance as well as the ability to engage targets from almost anywhere across the globe, without a requirement for forces on the ground. This extended reach offers a clear example of how advances in technology can provide a new and effective option for using lethal force.

Technological advancements and changing security practices affecting the use of force raise important ethical and practical questions, such as whether the technologies and practices should be used in warfare and whether self-imposed limits are appropriate for their responsible use, which can be addressed through national policy decisions, as well as such international laws and standards as the principles of humanity enshrined.

Related items:

The Ethics of Drone Strikes: Does Reducing the Cost of Conflict Encourage War? can be found here:

Lethal and Legal?: The Ethics of Drone Strikes can be found here:

Terrorist and Insurgent Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Use, Potentials, and Military Implications can be found here:

Parameters: The US Army War College Quarterly, V. 46, No. 1, Spring 2016 can be found here:

Autonomous Weapon Systems: A Brief Survey of Developmental, Operational, Legal, and Ethical Issues can be found here:

Studies in Intelligence, Journal of the American Intelligence Professional. Unclassified Studies From Studies in Intelligence, V. 57, No. 4 (December 2013) can be found here:

Counter-terrorism resources collection is available here:

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Illustrations vii
Tables ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Abbreviations xv
Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Assessing Civilian Casualties
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Drone Strike Casualty Estimates
Chapter 3: Discrepancies in Civilian Casualty Estimates
Chapter 4: Platform Precision or Comprehensive Process? 
Chapter 5: The Drone Campaign and Civilian Harm
Chapter 6:  Conclusions and Recommendations

The Future of Drone Strikes: A Framework for Analyzing Policy Options
Chapter 7: Introduction
Chapter 8: Framework and Policy Options
Chapter 9: Military Effectiveness
Chapter 10: Legitimacy
Chapter 11: Anticipating Net Effectiveness
Chapter 12: Conclusions and Recommendations
Improving Lethal Action: Learning and Adapting in U.S. Counterterrorism Operations
Chapter 13: Introduction
Chapter 14: An Analytical Approach to Lethal Action Operations
Chapter 15: Illustrating the Approach
Chapter 16: Implementing the Approach
Chapter 17: Benefits of the Process
Chapter 18: Conclusions and Recommendations

Security and Legitimacy: Learning from the Past Decade of Operations
Chapter 19: Introduction
Chapter 20: Lesson One: Promoting Legitimacy
Chapter 21: Practicing Legitimacy
Chapter 22: Conclusions and Recommendations
Appendix A: Title 10, Title 50, and Oversight
Appendix B: Covert Actions


United States Department of Defense leaders, defense contractors, soldiers, defense planning analysts, military leaders and strategists, policymakers, Members of Congress, and committees dedicated to domestic and international security may be most interested in this text.  Military science, military planning, and ROTC students may also find this resource beneficial in their studies and research for military reports and essays, as well as members of academia studying warfare and the use of drones.


February 16, 2017  Popular Science  Article: What's next for the drone war? If Trump follows Obama's Precedent, careful consideration and gradual transparency. But that's a pretty big "if".  by Kelsey D. Atherton  

"Rethinking the Drone War is a collection of reports recently published by Marine Corps University Press. The focus is about the national security potential for, and legitimacy of, drone strikes, and the dangers of civilian casualties, as the United States uses remotely piloted vehicles to pursue a war on terror.

'I think sometimes people think about drones and they think "killer robots,"' says Larry Lewis, who together with Diane Vavrichek wrote the reports in the book. “There’s also an interest due to a false understanding of what drones actually are and what they do."

Read the full article here:

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Defense Dept., Navy, Marine Corps, Marine Corps University Press
  • Lewis, Larry
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  • National Security
  • Counterterrorism
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