Despite their questionable legality in international law and the public opinion backlash they create in the Islamic world, drone attacks have been viewed by the new U.S. administration as extremely effective.
In the time since President Barack Obama took the oath of office, there have been about 120 deaths in eight drone attacks inside Pakistan.
The armed version of the Predator drone, designated MQ-9, is flown by remote control, has a wingspan of just less than 50 feet, is capable of cruising at 84 miles per hour and carries an armament of up to six laser-guided missiles.
When deciding to continue and even to expand Predator drone attacks, however, the Obama administration has shown a lack of appreciation for the ideological and psychological impacts of Predator attacks when they take the lives of innocent civilians, which they very often do. I fear we will find ourselves in 10 years not crediting, but rather blaming the Predator for fueling the next generation of anti-American sentiment in southern Asia.
Imagine for a moment you're sitting in your room at home enjoying a movie. The next thing you know, an explosion rocks the house and half of your family has been blown to bits with no prior warning because your next-door neighbor was on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Are you going to accept that as a sacrifice for a foreign nation's idea of a better world, or are you going to do everything you can to get justice for the loss of your family?
Additionally, mounting domestic popular disapproval of the attacks inside Pakistan will only serve to further disrupt the internal political environment of a nuclear-armed country.
Pakistan President Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has asked the White House to end drone attacks inside Pakistani territory and instead share its intelligence with Pakistani forces. Gen. David Petraeus, current commander of U.S. Central Command, has been told by Pakistan's minister of defense that Predator strikes are "not helpful" and not only do they breed a new generation of anti-Western fighters, they further disrupt an already volatile domestic situation.
Whether or not the United States has Pakistan's approval to conduct these operations in Pakistani territory is still a matter of debate, but if Zardari's private opinion matches his advertised opinion, the wishes of Pakistan's officials should be warranted and international law should be respected by the U.S.
The move towards further automation and computerization of our armed forces is a frightening prospect. I believe that if our military can send drone fighters or aircraft into situations normally deemed too dangerous for human soldiers or pilots, the rules of war will change in a way that will dramatically and disproportionately increase civilian casualties, undermining the efforts of the U.S.
The Obama administration needs to shift its focus into the future and reconsider its position on heavy Predator usage inside Pakistan's borders. The Predator aircraft allows strategic targeting and a minimization of risk to American pilots, but until intelligence gathering on the ground can better serve to eliminate civilian deaths and therefore prevent popular backlash, the Predator's Hellfire missiles simply aren't strategic enough.
Alex Berberich is a sophomore IR major who wants to catch a Predator.