“Transparency” and the Conditions of Public Support for Drone Strikes

Originally published in Elias Isquith’s Jubilee on February 20, 2013.


Thanks to a Washington Post/ABC poll from last February, we already knew that 83% of Americans support the use of drones against suspected terrorists overseas. This fact has been used to support the notion that U.S. drone strikes abroad will not come under domestic scrutiny because there is little demand for such scrutiny among the American public. Supposedly, at least 83% of Americans have accepted the use of unmanned drones as a viable and acceptable counterterrorism tool—and for a country so tired of the “decade of war” Obama repeatedly assures us is ending, this is hardly surprising. But the reality is not that simple.

The new poll—taken after the publication of the DOJ white paper on targeted killings—asks more specific questions about the use of drones to kill individuals, revealing nuances of opinion that say as much about the consequences of transparency as they do about American ethical leanings.

The poll found that 56% of respondents support the use of drones to target “high-level terrorist leaders who may be involved in planning attacks.” Fair enough. However, only 13% indicated support for killing “anyone suspected of being associated with a terrorist group.” And, in a separate question, only 27% indicated that they would favor the use of drones “if there is a risk of killing innocent people.”

Read more at Jubilee.

Ibrahim Project, June 5: A diplomatic ascent in Nizwa

← Previous: Ibrahim Project, June 4 (Part 2): Politics & society in Oman

This is part of a series of posts on my participation in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project during June 2012.

The University of Nizwa

After the concentrated, constant influx of information we’d received the previous day, our next excursion felt like the perfect repose. On our second day in Oman, we drove further into the interior to have lunch with some students and faculty at the University of Nizwa. The first non-profit university in Oman, the University of Nizwa is almost eight years old now. It was initially put in the place of an old school, but is currently building a new campus in a different location. Aesthetically, I think the original campus will do, but the plans for the new campus look amazing too.

We were greeted by some faculty members, Amanda and Brian, who took us to the place where we’d be eating lunch: the “male cafeteria.” It was a little surprising to see that there were two different cafeterias for men and women here—it’s probably not an unusual occurrence, but I had never considered eating arrangements in an Islamic context before. Later we noticed that in many rooms there were also separate entrances for men and women. I don’t know the reasons behind this design, but I’m inferring that it’s pretty representative of the people’s religiosity—measures like this probably reduce mingling, or, for the entrances, unnecessary physical contact. I wonder how strictly this separateness is observed (has anyone dared to sit in the wrong cafeteria, or do some people use whichever entrance is most convenient?), and it’s possible this just exists to respect the wishes of the people who are more strictly observant. But the select group of female students that we met, who sat in the male cafeteria with us, were clearly willing to talk and open up to the boys in our group. Also, men and women still sit together in classrooms at the school—though that situation may be viewed differently, as the classroom is primarily for learning, and having men and women in the same classes probably assures that they get the same quality of education. And that’s great—I think that’s a very realistic, moderate application of those values.

Continue reading Ibrahim Project, June 5: A diplomatic ascent in Nizwa