Precision and Civilian Casualties: Policymakers Believe Drones Can Be Precise. That May Not Be Enough.

On July 31, the Center for a New American Security published two papers from a project dedicated to understanding how 16 years of extensive drone use have affected the dynamics of national security decisionmaking, particularly regarding the use of force, and exploring the ways those dynamics may affect democratic accountability, congressional oversight and democratic control over the use of force. Behind the Magical Thinking examines the legacy of the Obama administration’s relationship with drones based on extensive interviews with senior officials. This essay is an excerpt from the final publication.


Americans are, generally, positive about drones as a platform – which is a strange measure to have at all but indicative of the degree to which drones have captured public imagination. That drones are frequently described as precise instruments of warfare, carrying out surgical strikes while reducing risks to American forces, is an element of this approval and fascination. That

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