debate about use of U.S. drone strikes

Four students from the political science 361 current debates/U.S. foreign policy class battled it out over drone strike issues April 17 in the Pioneer Reading Room.

Sophomore Rachel Axtman and senior Will McHenry were teamed up against junior Jake Baker and junior Jerry Young. Axtman and McHenry argued the affirmative and Baker and Young argued the negative of the effectiveness of drone strikes.

Before the debate, the audience was asked to think about its own feelings on the resolution of drone strikes and why it held its opinion.

Axtman began the debate. In her speech, she said “no one wants to see another war or death” and that “drones are keeping a terrorist attack with the magnitude of 9/11 from happening.” Although she was arguing for drone strikes, Axtman also said “we [her and McHenry] are not claiming that drones are the only option.”

During the two-minute cross examination, Axtman and McHenry responded to a question by saying “it is easier to take them [the enemy] out with drones than to bring in special ops.”

Baker delivered the first negative constructive speech. Baker argued that “U.S. drone strikes create new war conflicts” and that “the vast majority of militants killed were low-level insurgents that were of no threat to the U.S.” He also said that “U.N. officials declared that the U.S. drone strikes were not good for Pakistani sovereignty” and that “our own government [the U.S.] killed Americans and U.S. soldiers who were mistaken for insurgents.”

Baker and Young responded to a question during the two-minute cross examination by saying that no long term research shows that drones hinder military operations.

McHenry delivered the second affirmative constructive. In his speech he said that drone strikes were of low cost, and they [drone strikes] “put no U.S. soldiers at risk.” He also said that drone strikes are the “most effective tool of the U.S military arsenal,” and that it is the “cheapest method of combating terrorism.”

In the cross examination, Axtman and McHenry said that drone strikes were not a cause for retaliation and used the Times Square bomber threat as an example.

The second negative constructive was delivered by Young who argued that “drone strikes aided militant recruiting.”  He also said that “the U.S. drone strikes violated international law in Pakistan” because the strikes were inside Pakistan borders and without its consent. Young said that drone strikes were “disapproved by nations across the world, including France, Germany, Egypt, and Turkey” and that countries affiliated with the U.S. lose trust from Pakistan because of these strikes.

During the two-minute cross examination, Young and Baker said they think that a country can claim sovereignty over areas outside of its control, but are within its borders.

In the negative rebuttal, Baker and Young said that retaliation increases after a drone strike and that “we [the U.S.] can’t see the people we’re killing.”  They also said that one in four deaths by drones are civilians, most of whom are children.

Axtman and McHenry said in the affirmative rebuttal that “Yemen and Pakistan have consented to drones” and Afghanistan consented to drones in areas in which it has no control.  They also said that extremists are joining militant groups because of the lack of education and economic alternatives, not just because of drone strikes.

At the end of the debate, the audience was again asked to reflect on its feelings of the resolution and if its opinion had changed and if it had, why.


Kiera Downs/Copy Editor

Kiera Downs can be reached at