The U.S. Drones in Syria: Fight Terror With Terror?

Living Under the Killing Machine

Brandy Anderson

The United States cannot use drones in Syria and claim to be proponents of a Just War because the use of indiscriminatory drones that kill nonmilitary targets is anything but ‘just’.  John Rawls claims that “the aim of a just war waged by a decent democratic society is a just and lasting peace between peoples, especially with its present enemy” (Ethics 635). Peaceful feelings towards the US are not going to be evoked from civilians who are constantly under threat, living their lives with a menacing US drone hovering in the air.

The constant presence of US drones “terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities” (“”). Inducing this state of terror and fear will not help Syrians. Instead, this heightened fear will incite further violence and give would-be insurgents a new cause to rally against. Michael Walzer notes that terrorism’s “purpose is to destroy the morale of a nation or a class, to undercut its solidarity; its method is the random murder of innocent people” (Ethics 644). The modern US is supposedly forever “in a war against terror” (qtd President Bush), so how can the US justify conducting their own terrorist acts against others?

The presence of drones affects the daily lives of civilians. They are not free to participate in their daily activities because they have the giant metal menace hovering in the air, watching their every move, and ready to strike at any moment. Daily routines are altered, parents keep children home from school, meaningful gatherings may be canceled for fear of drawing attention from the drones (“livingunderdrones”). The US is allegedly attempting to help victims of tyranny and violence, yet their drones make others hesitant to extend help. “The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims” (“livingunderdrones”). This society of fear initiated by the drones does not fall within the Just War theory because it disregards civilians’ rights.

Rawls states in Just War a “decent democratic society must respect the human rights of the members of the other side, both civilians and soldiers” (Ethics 635) because of the necessity of respecting human rights and “to teach enemy soldiers and  civilians the content of those rights by the example of how they hold in their own case” (Ethics 635). The practice of US drones teaches the other side that it is beneficial to wield a police state mentality where fear and bullying is the key to success. This shows neither respect for the military and civilians nor does it present a positive example, making the use of drones not fit to be categorized as fitting into a Just War.

Thomas Nagel states that in Just War the “condition of appropriateness to the true object of hostility should limit the scope of attacks on an enemy country” (Ethics 659). Flying drones over civilian areas does not provide the proper level of appropriateness for the US to claim they are participating in the Just War tradition. US drones are not acceptable in any Just War.

Works Cited:

Bush, George. “War on Terrorism” quote. Presidential Comments Upon Returning From Camp David. 16 September, 2011. Quoted from Democratic 31 October 2012. Web.
“Living Under US Drones”. Stanford Law School. Living Under Drones. 31 October 2012. Web.
“Twentieth Century”. Ethics of War. Ed. Reichberg, Syse, and Begby. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 593-693. Print.


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