Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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The World (and Women) Hates U.S. Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
June 13, 2012

MQ-1 Predator returns to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after a mission (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force). MQ-1 Predator returns to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after a mission (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force).


Today, the Pew Research Center released its latest Pew Global Attitudes Project public opinion survey, conducted in twenty-one countries in March and April of this year through phone or in-person interviews. The results lead with the headline (which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone following U.S. targeted killing policies) “Drone Strikes Widely Opposed.”

Of the twenty-one countries that were polled, only Pakistanis’ opinions were not released in this poll—according to a footnote, “A different question about drone strikes was asked in Pakistan and will be released in a subsequent report.” Participants in the other twenty countries were asked the following question:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the United States conducting missile strikes from pilotless aircraft called drones to target extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia?”

The only country in which a majority of respondents (62 percent) approved of U.S. drone strikes was the United States. Interestingly, this marks a significant decline from a February Washington Post poll that found 83 percent of Americans supported the use of drones “against terrorist suspects overseas.”

Outside of the United States, however, the overwhelming majority of respondents oppose drone strikes in seventeen of the twenty countries, including among U.S. allies or partners: Greece (90 percent), Egypt (89 percent), Jordan (85 percent), Turkey (81 percent), Spain (76 percent), Brazil (76 percent), Japan (75 percent), and Mexico (73 percent). The only two outliers were Great Britain, where only 47 percent oppose drone strikes, and India, where 47 percent did not answer the question at all.

Another notable finding was the gender gap of support for U.S. drone strikes. In the ten countries for which a male to female breakdown was provided, markedly more men approved of the attacks than women: Brazil (26 to 12 percent), Germany (54 to 24 percent), and Japan (32 to 11 percent), and the United States (74 to 51 percent).

Despite the seemingly pervasive opposition by their citizens, the leaders in these countries have either explicitly supported U.S. drone strikes by hosting them on their air bases, or implicitly by refusing to raise the issue in international forums where the U.S. human rights record could be debated, such as the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. Faced with escalating drone missions in an increasing set of countries, most governments are simply silent.

If the United States has learned anything from the Arab Spring, it is that the voices of disaffected citizens must be accounted for when planning and conducting foreign policy. In many countries—most notably Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen—CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) drone strikes are the face of U.S. foreign policy. This recent poll should serve as an impetus for the relevant House and Senate foreign relations committees, which currently have zero oversight over U.S. targeted killing policies, to bring these issues to light and debate how they fit into broader, long-term foreign policy objectives.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by K Griffin

    This is BS for any number of reasons. WHO made the “O” Supreme ruler of the world.
    I hope comments are actually allowed. Ha

  • Posted by Alan

    So the dwarfs are for the dwarfs? No surprise there.

    A little disappointed in my home country of the UK – but there are various reasons why I left that place some years ago…

  • Posted by Tudo

    The usa has become a laughing stock of the world as the more we find out about the immoral behavior of these people. Lowlife’s.

  • Posted by John Q. Parvenu

    Is America the most criminal nation-state in all human history?

    Read this and find out — http://ericpetersautos.com/2012/05/07/deathstar-america-and-the-endgame-of-empire/

    Cheers, JQP

  • Posted by Mike

    I appreciate that you are addressing this issue,
    But your blog, just like the report only begins to scratch the surface on this issue. The questions it fails to ask respondents is (in no particular order):

    1. Would the use of manned aircraft vice unmanned sway your opinion?

    2. Would you be more likely to support the program if the US released information after the attacks as to the nature of the threat of the person they targeted?

    3. Do you feel the US would ever be justified in conducting attacks of this sort if an attack on their interests was imminent?

    You can make a legitimate argument that these attacks affect the long term foreign policy of the US, but I think we fail to ask the right questions. More over, we fail to consider common sense, the reason strikes have increased since the Bush era is because we have more resources to conduct them, not because this current administration is just more in favor of them. That isn’t to dismiss that their policy may be to use drones over ground incursions, but it isn’t a simple here to there argument. The Bush administration did not have the capability, it is not possible to determine how they would have used a weapon system they didn’t have access to at this scale.

    The real questions become:

    1. How many more terrorists are we creating by conducting these attacks?

    2. What is the level of threat to our interests of the current people being attacked?

    3. Does exposing the information from #2 destroy our capability of stopping future attacks?

    4. What is the best course of action to have a “public” and/or classified debate for #3?

    5. Finally, when will polling be conducted that asks more difficult questions of the respondents that gives us real insights into what the public believes is the line between right an wrong.

    There also has to be legitimate consideration that the public just doesn’t have the desire (or experience) to consider all the possible variables in why attacks would be justified. Perhaps there is a need for a poll from foreign policy and military experts. Logic being, if you have a strange looking mole, you don’t take a poll of people on the street to find out whether you should have it removed or not.

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