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Limitations of Drone Warfare in the War on Terror



Recently, news audiences have been flooded with reports about civilian deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq – the focal points of the War on Terror (WOT) – as a result of drone attacks. Those reports were predictable for people who followed the campaign closely. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the WOT saw the most extensive use of drones in any conflict (Rothenberg & Bergen, 2014). Again, this comes as no surprise to those actors who have observed trends in global conflict since World War II ended. This paper aims at highlighting, discussing, and clarifying the limitations of drone warfare in the WOT, and using primary and secondary evidence to substantiate the arguments put forward in this context. This paper adds to the growing scrutiny of drone warfare’s effectiveness not only in the WOT but also in any other theater of war.


The Emergence of Drone Warfare

Unlike popular opinion, drone warfare is not confined to attacks. One vital aspect of drones, which most people previously misunderstood, was their support for intelligence activities. Since the First World War, the focus has been put on the use of aircraft to gather intelligence, as demonstrated by the U-2 incident of 1960, and the growing popularity of aerial recognition. As a result, the term warfare will be considered in its entirety in the best interests of this paper, meaning the inclusion of both conventional and unconventional approaches (Gertz & Brooks, 2014). By the end of World War Two, several countries had accepted that the use of pilotless aircraft could minimize human losses and infrastructural damage necessitated by achieving military victories. That view is backed by the fact that, in some instances, in the quest to capture or kill individual targets, scores of civilians and military personnel died (Holmqvist 2013). For such campaigns, drones were perfect, as they offered an alternative that is risk-free, cheap, virtual (passive), and removed from the human disposition.

Limitations of Drone Warfare in the War on Terror

By the late 1950s, while there was still a remote possibility of drone warfare, the aim of reducing danger, costs, and casualties in a conflict motivated many countries to accelerate technology in this area. The United States continued to explore ways of replacing ground troops with drones that were necessary during the 1960s and 1970s (Brady, 2012). It took West Germany, the Soviet Union, and Britain until the late 1980s to develop computing and electronic systems, which paved the way for modern drones. The US Air Force began exploring the possibilities of arming pilotless planes with missiles in the late 1990s.

It is worth noting that before the September 11th attacks, drone warfare was a relatively unknown concept in the public arena. This is because, before September 11th, there had been no significant need for using drones in conflicts. The WOT is the first contemporary military engagement that featured and made drone warfare a ubiquitous aspect in the public arena (Hudson, Owens & Flannes, 2011). From 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), together with the Armed Forces of the United States, intensified efforts to arm drones, leading to their now prominent role in the WOT. Since 2011, the WOT campaign has been extended to countries like Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan, making drone warfare ever more crucial.

Why Drones have been Used in the WOT

The conditions prevailing in the WOT validated the use of drone warfare. The terrain in places like Afghanistan meant the US couldn’t use traditional methods to wage war against belligerents like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It is also widely recognized that the evolution of warfare has seen a movement towards more passive strategies that minimize costs and casualties (Klaidman, 2012). Attrition has emerged as a simplified approach that is especially effective against terrorist groups rather than conventional forces. For example, since the WOT started, the United States has never been involved in typical conventional warfare against terrorist organizations. The multiplicity of the enemy makes it difficult and ineffective to fight it using ground troops (Ralph, 2013). Al-Qaeda, for example, has cells in several countries around the world. The US cannot send troops to fight Al-Qaeda’s cells in Yemen and Somalia because they are not sufficiently trained in guerilla warfare.

The Soviet Union’s experience in Afghanistan showed that even the mightiest forces could be defeated using unconventional tactics. Consequently, attrition and drone warfare was adopted as support systems for ground and urban combat (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). While ground forces fought in urban and mountainous regions, drones were used to eliminate critical leaders of terrorist groups and, as a result, weaken them. Due to cultural and geographical challenges in the countries in which the WOT is waged, drones have proved to be vital agents for the collection of intelligence (Shafir, Meade & Aceves, 2013). Rather than risk the lives of military personnel by using field staff in dangerous zones, drones have allowed coalition forces to source vital intelligence through aerial surveillance. Using drones, images of strategic sites, and enemy combatants can be taken and relayed to analysts for deciphering. The view was backed by the fact the, in some instances, it supports better planning and implementation of military strategies (Terry, 2013).

Limitations of Drone Warfare in the War on Terror

It is essential to mention that with increasing effectiveness of attrition, it has become increasingly important to eliminate high-profile individual targets to weaken their organizations. According to some analysts, over 90% of such operations have been carried out by drones, with the result that groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have either been weakened or disorganized enough to reduce their capabilities (Tanguay, 2013). Not only is this unrealistic, but it is also impractical to use ground forces to pursue high-value targets when drones can achieve the same objectives with less risk at a much lower cost. In retrospect, if the Soviet Union had employed drones in Afghanistan, it is possible that its campaign would have been shorter. For the US, it is safe to say that without drone warfare, it would have suffered more losses in Iraq and Afghanistan (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). The Battle of Mogadishu, in which the US experienced an unusually high number of casualties, showed why it was necessary to engage the enemy indirectly, and this validates the use of drones in the WOT.

Limitations of Drones in the WOT

Drones are not 100 percent independent. Although drone warfare has boosted the gathering of intelligence, the WOT still requires field intelligence officers to supply information to be used in conducting drone strikes against identified targets. In this regard, the accuracy of drone strikes has been as good as the intelligence provided by field officers (Rae & Crist, 2014). In some cases, especially in situations where the use of drones depends on the right information, inaccurate intelligence has resulted in thousands of deaths of civilians and, more concerning, mistimed attacks against perceived targets (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). Once individuals know that they are being targeted, they become more discrete with their movements, making it difficult to survey and conduct successful strikes against them.

Another major limitation of drone warfare is that for the US to adhere to state sovereignty requirements, it relies on host-country cooperation that is usually secured via costly informal payments and foreign aid. In some cases, some countries have merely manipulated the US into thinking that they cooperate with them, yet they are just angling for financial rewards (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). In recent times, the US has accused the government of Pakistan of hindering progress in the WOT by taking advantage of monetary benefits instead of providing necessary support to facilitate drone warfare (Holmqvist, 2013). In the broader scheme of things, this means that drone warfare has more legal and bureaucratic limitations that have reduced its effectiveness as a military strategy.

Since drone warfare is usually kept secret to protect the United States’ national security interests, it is difficult to confirm whether or not attacks occurred and their outcomes. While others might view this as an advantage, it is also a huge hindrance because it denies the US vital morale, propaganda, and psychological victory (Brady, 2012). Terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Somalia are often heard claiming that reports claiming that they have suffered casualties are false (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). Since the US cannot claim a clear moral victory, targets can easily deny losses and carry on with their normal activities. In any war, real and psychological success is significant because it puts pressure on the enemy and leads them to err in their planning and execution (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). Ultimately, in the long term, loss of public support accelerates defeat. This has not been the case with drone warfare in the WOT.

Although drone warfare has been effective in some respects, evidence shows that it still cannot replace global counter-terrorism strategies favored in the WOT (Galliott, 2012). Besides, although the US military and the CIA have used drone warfare in numerous operations, their effectiveness in the campaign has been limited by their susceptibility to weak air defenses. For example, one of the most common drone models, the Predator, succeeded in destroying radar units during Operation Iraqi Freedom but then became an easy target for the country’s air defense systems (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). The Iraqi Air Force downed three Predators so quickly that US military leadership contemplated withdrawing them from the engagement. Such vulnerability to simple air defense systems, added to its inadequate air-to-air defensive qualities, invalidated the idea of using drone warfare to stymie enemy air defenses (Holmqvist, 2013). One would think that with their technology, the Predators should have easily destroyed Iraqi air defense systems.

The vulnerability of drones to air defense systems has also affected efforts to use pilotless aircraft to project the United States’ strategic capabilities during the WOT (Holmqvist, 2013). This flaw has, consequently, restricted drone warfare to areas where air defense systems have already been suppressed. Worryingly, even in the tribal enclaves of Pakistan, where air defense systems are virtually unheard of, some members of the Taliban have boasted that they have shot down many drones over the skies of South Waziristan (Rae & Crist, 2014). Even when it is not being shot at by combatants, the Predator crashes, on average, 43 times every 100,000 flying hours as a result of mechanical problems. This, when compared to piloted aircraft that crash two times every 100,000, shows that the Predators are not as efficient as required. Such frequent crashing has reduced the success of drone warfare and prolonged the wait for uncrewed aircraft to usurp manned aircraft (Rae & Crist, 2014).

When it comes to the gathering of intelligence, the United States’ lack of a military presence on the ground in areas outside conflict zones (e.g., Pakistan) has lowered the effectiveness of drones in the acquisition of vital intelligence. For example, during urban counterinsurgency activities in some parts of Iraq, drones would rely on their all-round surveillance capabilities to monitor combatants, followed by eliminating or supporting ground troops to apprehend the combatants (Galliott, 2012). The captured combatants would then provide American military officials with valuable intelligence (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). In contrast, in cases where drone warfare has been used in hunter-killer activities in secluded areas of Pakistan, where the US military lacks ground presence, drones can only eliminate identified targets. This has denied the military the opportunity to arrest terrorists and extract valuable intelligence that can be used to capture or kill terrorists in future operations. As is often said, ‘dead men tell no tales.” Once a drone strike kills a terrorist, the intelligence aspect is compromised, and more field operations have to be conducted to acquire intelligence (Holmqvist, 2013).

Successful drone warfare relies on the availability of multiple sources of intelligence. However, during the WOT, the US military has recognized that having diverse intelligence sources is not only unsustainable but also impractical. This has hindered drones’ ability to locate targets accurately (Galliott, 2012). Local intelligence sources in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan are notoriously undependable, while some are always looking to exploit drone warfare for self-gratification by encouraging drone strikes against their enemies (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). While the Predator’s camera captures clear images, it has been hard for drone pilots to identify targets when surveying them directly from above precisely. This flaw was evident after the September 11th attacks when a Predator pilot mistakenly identified a man as Osama bin Laden and “pulled the trigger.” This resulted in the death of the innocent man and his two colleagues (Galliott, 2012). In summary, without adequate and consistent ground presence, drone strikes are inspired by lousy intelligence, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians.

The collateral damage (civilian deaths) of drone warfare has been blamed for the increase in militant activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. This perspective may seem fallacious, but it has been validated by reviews conducted by both the governments of the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). The net effect of drone warfare is that US ground forces have to deal with more militants than before; this has delayed efforts to pacify and withdraw from some regions (Holmqvist, 2013). Drone warfare has cultivated a siege mentality among Iraqi, Pakistani, and Afghani civilians. Although violent militants could be unpopular, they are considered to be less threatening than a faceless adversary (drones) that fights from afar and kills more innocents than combatants (Galliott, 2012). Some conflict specialists and defense analysts have argued that if the civilian casualties caused by drone strikes are promoting the widespread support of Islamic combatants, then drone warfare may inhibit successful campaigns in northwest Pakistan.

In March 2009, the Taliban attacked the Lahore police academy and justified it as revenge for the United States’ sustained drone strikes (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). According to Hakimullah Mehsud, who succeeded Baitullah Mehsud as head of the Pakistani Taliban, the group will continue carrying out suicide attacks until the US discontinues drone strikes (Rae & Crist, 2014). This creates the impression that rather than suppress militancy, drone warfare has strengthened the resolve of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to fight US forces. In this sense, drone warfare has a regressive rather than a progressive effect on the United States WOT campaigns (Galliott, 2012).

Since drone warfare, as used in the WOT, has always been shrouded in secrecy, the American public has paid less attention to it than it should. As a result, apathy towards drone warfare has increased in recent years. Ultimately, the perception that the WOT is “costless” has become widespread (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). This notion has been propagated more by the US government’s policy of concealment than the folly of its citizens. The idea of a “costless” war has inspired the notion that drone warfare carries no human risks and costs to the US (Rae & Crist, 2014). However, instead of exposing the American public to the realities of the WOT (coffins and casualties), drone warfare has conditioned Americans to think that the WOT can continue for as long as possible, provided there is no risk to the lives of military personnel.

Suddenly, going to war has become more or less the same as going to work. In reality, this should not be the case. When the WOT commenced, prompt deadlines were set for withdrawal and downscaling of operations. However, up to this moment, the number of troops and the scale of processes involved is still much higher than promised (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). The perspective of the “costless” war has denied the American public the opportunity to vet its political leadership concerning the WOT. It has disregarded the political limits and accountability that typify waging war in the modern world.

Drone warfare has been influential in fanning more insecurity in the areas in which it is commonly preferred. Since the launch of the WOT, scholars have established a link between the social impacts of drone warfare and delays in ending the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq (Holmqvist, 2013). It has been proven that drone strikes in remote areas where the United States has a limited military presence have led to the displacement of thousands of indigenous populations, creating a community of refugees and internally displaced persons that support militant activities (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). It has been shown over the years that social disarray is one of the main drivers of insecurity and a significant hindrance to the rapid conclusion of wars. Social instability creates loopholes for young men and women to pursue terrorist activities, especially when they are directly affected by conflict situations.

Surprisingly, the US military and political leadership are yet to demonstrate that it understands the connection between drone warfare, social challenges, and its protracted WOT campaign. By displacing indigenous tribes whose survival hinges on subsistence farming and livestock rearing, drone strikes have created thousands of unemployed and destitute people who can easily take up arms to provide for their families (Rae & Crist, 2014). In this context, the situation mirrors that witnessed in Iraq within the first year of the United States’ invasion when the Iraqi military was disbanded, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers were disenfranchised. The unemployed soldiers, who still had access to armories and ammunitions, later joined militant groups or formed their militant outfits to fight against the occupational force that has pushed them to the brink (Holmqvist, 2013).

Drone warfare has played a massive role in the high unemployment rates in the areas in which it has been heavily used. When whole communities desert their ancestral lands and households lose their breadwinners, some other ways have to be found that can fill the gap created by drone warfare (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). Although the WOT was supposed to have ended within the first five years as projected, it was already evident, in the first two years, that this target was too ambitious (Rae & Crist, 2014). It is also apparent that the first two years involved the most extensive use of drone warfare since the campaign started. In Pakistan, members of the Pashtun tribe, most of whom live in the areas frequently targeted by drone strikes, have supported as well as joined terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and, most recently, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (Brady, 2012).

In refugee camps where people who have fled areas prone to drone strikes can find safety, militant groups have been active in recruiting young men and women to join their organizations and fight against the enemy that has brought them such suffering (Brady, 2012). The insecurity created by drone warfare, especially among the displaced, has left scores of villagers with no option but to exploit the situation to their benefit. And it comes as no surprise the American forces have suffered some of their most massive casualties in such areas (Bergen & Rothenberg, 2014). In some cases, the intention is not to fight the ground troops, but to steal some of their hardware for sale in the black markets of Kabul or Baghdad. In reality, the United States military should be fighting a direct war in which most of its threats are known (Holmqvist, 2013). However, because of the effects of drone warfare, ground troops now face threats from all sources.

It is becoming difficult to understand the motivations behind some of the attacks, whether they are militant or civilian. There is still no question that hostilities created by drone warfare have made the WOT more complicated than it should have been. In many areas of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military has lost the support of civilians who have been affected by drone strikes (Brady, 2012). Consequently, it is now fighting a more significant and more unpredictable force that is slowing down the withdrawal of troops and generating unnecessary negative publicity. It is becoming apparent that through drone warfare, coalition forces lost the propaganda war that is critical to winning the actual battle. Drone strikes have made it impossible to win the minds of youths who are growing more resentful of the WOT and viewing the US military as an enemy rather than an ally (Rae & Crist, 2014). It is likely that as the withdrawal of troops is accelerated, coalition forces will increase their usage of drones because it is no longer possible to manage the campaign in the ground.

Some scholars have argued, convincingly, that drones are mere instruments of war, that they cannot turn the tide of any conflict to the benefit of the belligerents. In the WOT, despite the distinct strategic and technological qualities of drones, they have not changed the fundamental nature of the conflict in favor of the United States and its allies (Roger, 2013). If anything, drone warfare has created more unnecessary obstacles that have made the WOT look like a mistake rather than a justified cause. Drone warfare has also not changed the legal expectations that regulate how the war on terror should be waged. In some respects, targeted counterinsurgency strategies are a significant improvement in the complex and seemingly unending counterterrorist operations witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq (Sloggett, 2014). However, a withdrawn approach still creates an impression. Like all wars, drone warfare has sociopolitical effects that cannot be anticipated or controlled by belligerents.

It is increasingly evident that drone warfare is effective against foot soldiers who can be replaced with minimum fuss. The number of high-ranking terrorists who have been eliminated by drone strikes and whose deaths have significantly weakened the enemy is too negligible to justify this strategy. The senior leadership of Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab is no longer as vulnerable to drone strikes as at the beginning of the WOT (Poynting, 2012). Every military strategy can also be countered, regardless of its effectiveness. Drones have not been as effective as they are sometimes portrayed. Since their pattern of operation can be understood, targets have developed increasingly sophisticated methods of outmaneuvering drone strikes and surveillance. In the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qaeda has trained its ground operatives on how to evade drones and communicate despite the presence of drones (Rae & Crist, 2014). In remote areas of Kabul, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have trained its fighters to travel with as many women and children as they can to minimize casualties suffered during drone strikes. This has significantly reduced the effectiveness of drone warfare, especially in remote, mountainous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Senior Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and Al-Shabaab operatives now understand how to evade drone strikes and, although some have been killed, a large percentage of them have survived. This explains why the US military has resorted to using Special Forces to conduct operations to kill or capture high-value targets in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia (Evangelista, 2013). If drone warfare were as effective as expected, such operations would not be necessary. This shows that the effectiveness of drones to monitor and verify the movements of militants has been compromised by equally effective tactics employed by high-value targets. As drone strikes continue to be evaded by high-value targets, terrorist groups are getting more room to upscale their operations because the top leadership is intact (Mukasey, 2013).

Unlike ground troops involved in the WOT, drone warfare cannot support detailed site analyzes or door-to-door searches or the seizure of valuable materials like computers, cell phones, and information storage devices like hard drives. The seizure of these materials is significant to success in the war on terror, but drone warfare has not enabled this. To be realistic, it has destroyed instead of recovering intelligence (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). In most drone strikes, the damage is usually total, such that nothing can be improved that can be used to leverage future operations. In any conflict, such totality is often necessary during desperate times when war has dragged out for too long or when resources are limited. Concerning the war on terror, there has not been any encouragement that it is appropriate to liquidate targets together with vital intelligence (Katz, 2012). Such policies typify scorched earth strategies that demonstrate incapability and are more suited to 20th-century conflicts like World Wars One and Two.

Every American special operation task force based anywhere around the world has a “fusion cell” that it uses to collect, analyze, and share its intelligence with federal agencies and local intelligence unit feeds. Drone warfare has essentially rendered some of these task forces irrelevant by bypassing the crucial stage of intelligence collection and, ultimately, compromising the ability to infiltrate and destroy militant cells (Houen, 2014). unable to overestimate the importance of intelligence in the war on terror. The United States’ unsuccessful counter-terrorism operations are traceable to poor or inadequate knowledge. Data is how Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was captured (Hancock & Wexler, 2014). The information extracted from Zarqawi has been crucial in other successful raids in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iraq. Drone warfare, on the other hand, has only served to eliminate targets with no consideration of the intelligence value they could add to the WOT. Numerous Al-Shabaab leaders who have been killed in drone strikes could have been captured and interrogated (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). This could be the reason the organization has continued growing as the US persists with drone warfare in Somalia.

In 2012, the capture of an Al-Shabaab leader in the country yielded intelligence that was crucial to comprehending the intricate factional internal tension that the United States has used to degrade the outfit. In retrospect, no matter how costly ground operations may be, they have proven to be more supportive of the long-term perspective that is required to win the WOT than the myopic view that favors a smash-and-grab strategy that has not furthered the objectives of the campaign (Galliott, 2012). While drones can monitor and identify terrorists before launching strikes, ground troops who carry out raids have demonstrated that they add more value to the cause. Of course, they face and incur a lot of risks, but that is what they volunteered to do. If the United States wants to win the WOT, it would be more productive to ensure that maximum benefit is gained from drone warfare; this has not been possible thus far. Directly managing the risk to American forces is not a satisfactory reason (Kaag & Kreps, 2014).

The legal and ethical weaknesses of drone warfare have hindered the success of the war on terror. Before the commencement of operations in 2003, the American public and the citizens of all nations (e.g., the UK) assumed that drone warfare was justified. However, this was mainly because media coverage of drone strikes was partial, leaning towards the government than the citizenry (Boyle, 2013). Consequently, a majority of public observers did not view the strategy as a conservative and potentially counteractive approach. By 2008, however, drone warfare had acquired a negative image in the United States and the UK, where demonstrations against it are now a regular occurrence (Kaag & Kreps, 2014). In this regard, it is crucial to acknowledge the impact that negative public sentiments towards any conflict can have on its success.

Military personnel, though often trained to separate emotions from objectives, have consciences that cannot only be overlooked. Public outcry back in the US and the UK has sowed seeds of doubt among both junior and senior military personnel on the effectiveness of drones. In cases where feelings of doubt have been expressed, most of the “doubters” have been forced to give up their positions due to “incompetence” (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). It would be naïve to disregard the impact of the loss of a senior general like Stanley McChrystal. He voiced opposition, albeit in an informal manner, to the strategies adopted in the WOT. Part of McChrystal’s concern revolved around drone warfare, but he was eventually forced to resign. His resignation represented a considerable loss in terms of experience and had negative ramifications on the morale of ground troops (Kaag & Kreps, 2014).

This argument is meant to show that the polarizing nature of drone warfare has had negative indirect implications on the success of the war on terror. The context is identical to the Vietnam War, in which the US government lost the support of the public, and troops became disillusioned with the conflict (Terry, 2013). In any war, it is always crucial that the government secure the trust and support of the public, or it risks slowing down progress as negative publicity gets through to commanders and ground troops. This has been the case with drone warfare, which is now viewed as a wasteful and meaningless component of the WOT. Americans do not want to be part of an attritional and drawn-out conflict, and it is apparent that soldiers have their doubts as well (Kaag & Kreps, 2014).

Finally, Drone warfare has accelerated the radicalization of large parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This means that more prospective recruits of militant outfits have been volunteering due to the ineffectiveness of drone strikes in their regions (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). In 2013, Awan, an independent research company, conducted a study that showed that although the US government lauds the success of its drone strikes against terrorists, the reality is less favorable than they assume. For example, in 2014, a drone strike that killed Wali ur-Rehman, second in command in the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) raised concerns about the legality of the strategy in a sovereign country like Pakistan (Delmont, 2013). However, the biggest issue was that despite eliminating some high profile figures, drone warfare has acted as a recruitment tool for Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups that are sympathetic to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and who show no hesitation in attacking American forces and installations (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014).

Research shows that the situation is bound to worsen as the current regime becomes ever more reliant on drone warfare to accomplish its objectives in the WOT (Aaronson, Aslam, Dyson & Rauxloh, 2014). About a month ago, it was revealed that a drone strike ordered by President Obama in January resulted in the deaths of an American aid worker, an Italian volunteer, and several innocent Pakistanis. Similar attacks are only serving to derail the US government’s efforts in the WOT (Delmont, 2013). On current evidence, it appears that the campaign has been futile, and drone warfare has contributed to any failures.


Drone warfare has numerous limitations that have had a counteractive impact on the WOT. Based on the evidence provided in this paper, it is safe to say that it was a mistake for the US government to think that it could manage a conflict passively. Although the nature of war has changed, the fundamental requirements have mainly remained the same. Drone warfare should never have been given as much priority as it was; it should have been adopted as an auxiliary measure to fill gaps created by ineffective ground operations. It comes as a surprise that the Obama administration significantly increased its reliance on drone warfare, thereby exacerbating existing problems discussed in this paper. Radicalization and the adverse social implications that drone warfare has had in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq should be prioritized as problem areas by the US government. Otherwise, its failures will become more evident to the world.

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