By acting but barely explaining our actions, we’re creating precedents for other states to exploit. More than 75 countries now have military robotics programs, while another 20 have advanced cyber war capacities. Rest assured that nations like Iran, Russia and China will use these technologies in far more crude and indiscriminate ways — yet will do so while claiming to be merely following U.S. footsteps…
The current policy also makes it harder to respond to growing concerns over civilian casualties. Indeed, Pew polling found 96% levels of opposition to U.S. drones in the key battleground state of Pakistan, a bellwether of the entire region. It is indisputable than many civilians have been harmed over the course of hundreds of strikes. And yet it is also indisputable that various groups have incentives to magnify such claims.
Yet so far, U.S. officials have painted themselves into a corner — either denying that any collateral losses have occurred, which no one believes, or reverting to the argument that we cannot confirm or deny our involvement, which no one believes, either.
Finally, the domestic support and legitimacy needed for the use of these weapons is in transition. Polling has found general public support for drone strikes, but only to a point, with growing numbers in the “not sure” category and growing worries around cases of targeting U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of being terrorists.