British public divided on merits of drone strikes, says new study

Mar 27, 2013

Fifty-five per cent of the British public would support the UK Government assisting in a drone missile strike to kill a known terrorist overseas, but support drops substantially if innocent casualties are likely, according to a new study.

The findings come from a joint study from University of Surrey's Centre for (cii) and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in collaboration with YouGov.

Polling data also established British public support for drone missile strikes rose significantly if an imminent terrorist attack against the UK could be stopped, with many agreeing that can help to reduce casualties compared to other weapons, but feared that drones could make military intervention too easy.

However, Britons were divided on whether drones strikes are ultimately leaving the West more safe by making it easier to target known terrorists, or less safe by turning public opinion against us in other countries.

The new findings feature in a joint cii/RUSI Whitehall report Hitting the Target? How New Capabilities are Shaping International Intervention, which addresses the debate surrounding 'drones'; how much is known or understood by the public about this new technology and the capability it provides.

The YouGov poll examines to what extent the British public support or oppose the UK Government assisting in a drone strike and whether this is affected by several independent variables, including the hypothetical context of imminent threat, the targeting of UK citizens, and the likelihood of varying .

In each case respondents were first shown the following explanatory text: "It was recently reported that the UK Government might be passing information to US authorities to help them carry out missile strikes from called "drones" to kill known terrorists overseas in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia".

Overall support for the UK Government assisting in a drone strike against a known terrorist increased slightly to 60 per cent if the person being targeted was a UK citizen. Moreover, if it was guaranteed that no innocent civilians would be killed by a drone strike, support increased again to 67 per cent.

However, support for a drone strike dropped substantially to 43 per cent, with 41 per cent opposed, when it was suggested that 2-3 innocent civilians might be killed. Support for a drone strike dropped further still to 32 per cent if it was 'likely that 10-15 innocent civilians might be killed'; conversely opposition rose to 46 per cent.

When presented with a scenario that a terrorist attack against the UK was imminent and could be stopped by a drone missile strike against a known terrorist in Yemen, overall support remained notably less sensitive to casualty numbers. In this context support for a drone missile strike dropped from 74 per cent to 64 per cent among respondents overall when the scenario was a casualty-rate of 2-3 innocent civilians instead of none, and dropped further to 60 per cent when it included a casualty-rate of 10-15 innocent civilians. But in each case, overall support retained a strong majority.

On the broader question of whether drone missile strikes in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are helping or hindering Western security, the British public is divided. 32 per cent of respondents said drone strikes had made the West safer overall by making it easier to target known terrorists; 31 per cent said the West was less safe and turning public opinion against us in countries where drones are used; 37 per cent selected neither of these options or didn't know.

Nevertheless, a 57 per cent majority agreed overall that drones help to reduce casualties 'by removing the need to send people on the ground'. A significant plurality (47 per cent) also agreed that drones help to reduce casualties 'because of their accuracy compared with other weapons'.

Dr Joel Faulkner Rogers, Academic Director of YouGov, whose research is published in Hitting the Target? said: "As public debate now seemingly plays catch-up with a decade of evolving policy on drones, public opinion on the subject has been variously portrayed and oversimplified on a scale between nonchalantly for and hysterically against."

"The British public are clearly divided on whether the current use of drones is ultimately doing more harm or good to Western security. But there's also a distinction between attitudes to the weapon and the way it's used, which go beyond binary moral judgements about 'drones-good' or 'drones bad'. The findings show notable public concern that drones could make foreign intervention too easy. But a majority of Brits also support the policy, at least in principle, of targeted drone strikes against known terrorists, with many who support a view that drones can help to reduce, as well as cause, casualties if military action is required."

Professor Sir Michael Aaronson, Director of cii, commented: "This research demonstrates that the British public has a reassuringly sophisticated understanding of the benefits and dangers of the precision strike capabilities that drones provide. They are not soft on counter-terrorism, but they are uneasy about the wider foreign policy implications of the power these capabilities give Western governments."

"This report is an important contribution to the debate about drones, where there is often more heat than light. It is important that the public is properly informed about the issues if governments are to harness the power of technology in a socially responsible way."

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More information: To view the YouGov analysis on British attitudes to drone warfare and targeted killing please visit www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/… ov_Drones_Survey.pdf

A complete embargoed copy of 'Hitting the Target? How New Capabilities are Shaping International Intervention, can be viewed at www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/… tting_the_Target.pdf

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Lurker2358
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 27, 2013
Support for a drone strike dropped further still to 32 per cent if it was 'likely that 10-15 innocent civilians might be killed'; conversely opposition rose to 46 per cent.


Define "innocent".

We rarely target individuals in a truly public place (not talking about conventional military or para-military vehicle targets). Anyone likely to be hanging around the terrorist in a private place is unlikely to be "innocent". His family isn't innocent, because they almost certainly know what he's doing and participating in; you can't stockpile weapons and plan to burn the world, on the scale these guys operate, without your family knowing SOMETHING. Any "buddies" who are there are probably his accomplices.

So by "innocent" do they mean they just don't "know" any particular terrorist activity by the individual, or do they mean they are absolutely innocent of terrorism in a third person all-knowing sense?
BSD
2 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2013
I can understand British anxiety since they were the victims of drones in WW2. In this instance I think they are the way of the future of combat. I don't understand the outrage, terrorist use guerilla warfare, suicide bombings and the element of surprise with devastating results. Drones are a means of killing these religious fundamentalists without resorting to a ground offensive that can get very ugly, very quickly. With drones, the religious tumour is removed relatively cleanly and quickly. The other tumourous growths, (terrorist's family and fellow terrorists) are also cleaned up in this operation resulting in a sterile environment for normality to flourish. Bring them on, we need more. Fascinating technology BTW, that's what matters to me. I don't show any humanity toward these organisms, after all there isn't any show by them.
nowhere
5 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2013
His family isn't innocent

I agree. His wife and children, who probably lack a basic education, as well as information on international events, should know and follow the procedure to confront their oppressive husband/father, avoid cultural persecution (this may include being stoned to death), and inform an anti-terrorist agent of the plans strategies and weapons locations that their husband/father, who I will mention is probably high ranked(enough for him to be drone striked), mentioned in conversation(although anti-terrorist agent probably already know since in movies the US eves drop and wiretap the shit out of known terrorists). This guilt extends to unborn babies that no longer qualify for abortion as per US law.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2013
His family isn't innocent

I agree. His wife and children, who probably lack a basic education, as well as information on international events, should know and follow the procedure to confront their oppressive husband/father, avoid cultural persecution (this may include being stoned to death), and inform an anti-terrorist agent of the plans strategies and weapons locations that their husband/father, who I will mention is probably high ranked(enough for him to be drone striked), mentioned in conversation(although anti-terrorist agent probably already know since in movies the US eves drop and wiretap the shit out of known terrorists). This guilt extends to unborn babies that no longer qualify for abortion as per US law.


Indeed, sarcasm well taken and understood.

Do you think we should have fought WW II?
nowhere
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2013
Do you think we should have fought WW II?

Yes
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2013
Do you think we should have fought WW II?

Yes


Do you think innocents were killed in that war by the United States military?

If you do understand that then I must also assume you understand that the military probably killed MORE innocent civilians in that war than they did belligerents....

Drones are a scalpel, what we used in the 1940s was a wrecking ball.

Some would argue that this is in fact NOT a good thing that we're managing to limit collateral damage so much, and that we're taking so few casualties comparatively. That it somehow makes war more palatable and a more likely option. I'll stand mute to that, but I won't let someone pretend that it's possible to avoid killing innocents if you do go to war or that we're doing FAR less of that in modern warfare than in the past "justifiable" wars we've fought.
BSD
1 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2013
Do you think we should have fought WW II?

Do you really need to ask that? Seriously.....
By war's end there were 6 million less people in the world who's only crime was that they were Jewish. Had it continued, the few remaining Jews would also have been liquidated. Add to that, Nazi Germany also developing a nuclear weapon and a platform to deliver it. Pacifism is fine to a point. When you have someone or a religious dogma who's only reason for existence is to cause death and destruction, then violence is all they understand. It is the only effective means of communication. Please read William L Shirer's book "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich". Those who opposed war during WW2 were from the Right and agreed with the murderous campaigns Nazi Germany had already waged up until September 1939. They characteristically hated Jews as well so by advocating to do nothing they were complicit in Jewish destruction.
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2013
These are your words BSD:

I'm a faithless, militant religion (BULLSHIT) hater and sneer at the at the bullshit artist freaks who preach it. The only good religious, are the dead religious.


from this thread:

http://phys.org/n...ays.html

And you have the AUDACITY to pretend to criticize me? Aren't the six million people you're lamenting part of the "religious" that you think are only "good dead"???

Clear that up for me...
BSD
1 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2013

And you have the AUDACITY to pretend to criticize me? Aren't the six million people you're lamenting part of the "religious" that you think are only "good dead"???
Clear that up for me...


Easy, some of those Jews would have been secular and atheistic. But because they belonged to the Jewish community they were also targeted. It wasn't just their mode of faith, the Nazis targeted their looks as well. As I have said before, Christianity and Islam are the two most violent religions. Their language is death and destruction. It has been since they existed. It is true though, if the 6 million were Christians or Muslims, I couldn't give a shit.
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2013
It is true though, if the 6 million were Christians or Muslims, I couldn't give a shit.


I rest my case. Don't ever preach to me again about ethics or morals, or do if you want to waste your breath I guess. I give no credence to would be mass murderers or genocide lovers.

AS an atheist I find your world view repugnant and unconscionable....
BSD
1 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2013
I rest my case. Don't ever preach to me again about ethics or morals
AS an atheist I find your world view repugnant and unconscionable....


I never said I had morals, certainly terrorists have no morals. They get what they deserve, delivered by any means possible. Fight fire with fire.
Christians: Paedos, mass murderers. Muslims: terrorists, mass murderers, women haters, suicide bombers. Have not seen Jews do this. I stand by my opinions of the only good religious are the dead religious, they are the cause of all of the death and destruction. Without them there would be no death and destruction. The worst thing is, children are indoctrinated with religious shit at a young age. If it were possible to prevent this, that is state laws brought in to ban children from religious indoctrination until they are adults, they could make up their own minds and possibly not choose religion. This will slowly let religion die a natural death as the older, indoctrinated people die out.
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2013
I never said I had morals,


Then on what basis do you make your claim that we should have fought WW II?

No scratch that, on what basis do you make any claims about what anyone should do in ANY scenario?
nowhere
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2013
I won't let someone pretend that it's possible to avoid killing innocents if you do go to war


I agree. It is important to realise this fact and accept the responsibility it entails, rather than to paint every casualty in war as guilty.
BSD
1 / 5 (3) Apr 06, 2013
It's about time the religious fuckwits stopped believing the fairy tails in their Bibles, Koran, Torah etc. and start reading useful information.
WW2 was fought on the basis of defeating totalitarianism. I would have advocated laying Germany into a complete wasteland for what they did in Europe. That would have cleansed a whole lot of Christians from the Earth, especially Catholics. Fucking paedos.
Modernmystic
not rated yet Apr 08, 2013
It's about time the religious fuckwits stopped believing the fairy tails in their Bibles, Koran, Torah etc. and start reading useful information.


Either that or people learn to be tolerant no matter WHAT their beliefs are. Pot meet kettle...

But since you self admittedly have no morality then how can you say what other people should or shouldn't do, or what they should or shouldn't read? What is the basis for your ranting maniacal diatribe?