Since 11-S, the U.S. government has used armed drones for precision strikes at a growing rate, and as the pace of drone strikes increased, public debate about lethal strikes has been intensified. We agree that the public debate is a good exercise of democracy and freedom, but we should question us if we can debate about something that we are far to know in deep.
One of the more prominent aspects of the discourse about Combat UAVs in general is the cost-benefit tradeoff in their acquisition and use: Combat UAVs, in general, are slightly more cost effective to acquire and operate than conventional manned aircraft, but this aspect, even being important, may not be so important when compared with their strategic value, cornerstone of results-driven policy-making in counter terrorism strategy.
There are actually two preeminent challenges in evaluating of the strategic benefits of UAVs in specific operations environments:
- The first is the lack of a methodology to evaluate the effects of the use of UAVs: A methodology for the identification, collection, and analysis of relevant data would create a reliable framework from which the strategic value of drone technology could be quantified and evaluated.
- The second and more significant challenge pivots on the availability of empirical data on post-strike effects: The most frequently cited statistic from drone strikes is the resulting number of deaths, but it is well-established that these data are generally inaccurate or manipulated to serve an ideological purpose.
Without official confirmation of drone strikes, determining the full extent of the drone campaign in any target area is difficult. And without data on the number and location of strikes, researchers must rely on indirect measurements of drone strikes, most often inferring strike data from officials speaking to journalists. But this option represents, in fact, a twofold problem:
- The most basic problem with media reports is that the vast majority of media accounts about drone strikes are sourced from the government, often in the intelligence services. There is no way to confirm or refute the accounts in these reports.
- Depending on the perspective of the media outlet, reports on the same strike event can vary significantly.