Date of Graduation

Spring 2012


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Andrei Shoumikhin


drones, policy, targeted killing, counterterrorism, national security

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The United States has an ambiguous policy about the use of drones. The unspoken policy is that the use of drones is permissible because the United States is in a legitimate armed conflict with al-Qaeda. This armed conflict, initially in Afghanistan, was sanctioned by the U.S. Authorization of Use of Military Force and the U.N. Security Council. The United States insists the use of force in Pakistan and Yemen is simply an extension of the war in Afghanistan. As an extension of legitimate armed combat, the same permissions should apply. The international community does not share this policy outlook. Humanitarian rights groups such as Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union consider the United States' use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen to be illegal extrajudicial executions. This thesis recommends that the government of the United States officially clarify U.S. policy as regards targeted killing and adjust the legal justification for extraterritorial drone strikes to be a matter of self-defense rather than as an extension of legitimate armed conflict. This new position would reassure the international community that there are strict regulations on targeted killing, as well as preserve the United States' capability to effectively engage in future counterterrorism operations requiring extraterritorial efforts.


© Vincent Jeffrey Bataoel

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