RAND Report Calls For New RPA Strike Policy

The US government needs to clarify its RPA strike policy, according to a RAND report released Thursday. The Obama Administration’s playbook for the targeted killings and foreign sales of RPAs is based on an ambiguous interpretation of international law that allows for flexibility, but lacks clarity and prevents a serious debate on the use of the strikes, the authors conclude. The lack of transparency could make it harder for the US to criticize other countries’ policies in the future, they note. “Our analysis highlights a need for greater clarity, specificity, and consistency in US international legal policies involving targeted killing using drones,” they write. Adopting a more specific approach that is guided by the applicable international law—the provisions of the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law—could ensure the compliance of partner nations and help create agreed-upon international norms, the paper argues. “Policy choices need to be made on the critical international law elements notwithstanding the difficulties,” the authors note. The report presents three alternative frameworks that would do just that, but would allow for either restrictive, permissive, or hybrid approaches.