UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

To drone or not to drone : a comparative analysis of the effectiveness of the US's drone policy of targeted killing in the contexts of Pakistan and Yemen Dur-e-Aden , Aden


Drones are the new game in the town of counter-terrorism. For their proponents, drones do the dirty job of killing the “bad guys” without causing much harm to the civilians. For their critics, drones desensitize the killing of human beings by creating a “PlayStation mentality.” In a world where the threat levels from transnational terrorist organizations are continuously evolving, and the mistakes of the past policies continue to haunt, it is important to critically analyze the effects of the new tools of counter-terrorism before arguing for or against their continuous use. For the purposes of this paper, I review the existing literature on the issue of targeted killing (the primary reason for which drones are employed), and build up on those arguments to formulate a drone-specific theoretical framework. In order to test my hypotheses, I conduct a “structured, focused case comparison” of the US’s drone policy of targeted killing in the contexts of Pakistan and Yemen. I find that drones are an effective tool of targeted killing against a hierarchical organization which has a predatory and violent relationship with the population in which it operates. However, due to the secrecy surrounding this issue and its high political salience, current datasets are incomplete and suffer from significant errors, making this study only a start of a future project which will look into this issue more rigorously. I conclude this paper by mentioning these caveats, along with the suggestions on which variables future research should focus on, in order to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of the targeted killing strategy using drones.

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