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Thursday, 11th April 2013

Hitting the Target? How New Capabilities are Shaping International Intervention

Source: Royal United Services Institute (UK)

From the introduction:

The issue of ‘drones’ – as unmanned aerial vehicles are referred to in public discussion – has acquired an astonishingly high profile in the media in the UK and elsewhere, and is of increasing interest in academic as well as policy circles. ‘Drones’ are of course only one manifestation of the enormous technological superiority enjoyed by the US that has played a major part in shaping its foreign-policy interventions over the last sixty years. Aerial bombing campaigns, from Vietnam to Kosovo, Iraq and Libya, are another. Cyber-warfare is also manifestation of technological development, though one not covered in this report, partly because the capabilities are still mainly classified and there is little case-study evidence to draw on.

The reason drones are given such prominence here is that they have acquired a key role in the Obama administration’s global counter-terrorism strategy. Their use as a vehicle for targeted killings – including in countries where the US is not actively engaged in armed conflict such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen – is highly controversial and contested, and gives rise to a wide range of strategic, legal, ethical and policy questions. Thus the key drivers examined by this report are, firstly, precision-strike capability – the ability to place a destructive force accurately and precisely against a given target; and, secondly, UAV technology – the first time states can combine assistance in the field with zero operator risk in order to achieve either persistent surveillance or destructive effect.

Given the speed with which the drone has entered popular discourse, it is instructive to ask just how much is known or understood by the public about this new technology, the capability it provides and the use to which it is put. This report opens with the findings of recent polling of public opinion carried out by YouGov. This shows that that the UK public distinguishes between the inherent potential value of drones themselves and their actual use.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »



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