Drone Warfare and the Obama Administration’s Path-Dependent Struggles on Human Rights and Counterterrorism


Why did the use of drone strikes proliferate during the first term of the Obama administration? This paper espouses two key preliminary and exploratory arguments. First, deploying theoretical insights from historical institutionalism, we argue that the Obama administration, despite its initial resistance to the existing counterterror agenda, found it extremely difficult to reverse the war on terror narrative and the institutions that emerged therefrom in US domestic and foreign politics. This continuation provided strong incentives to maintain militaristic approaches to counterterrorism, considering President Obama’s inclination to continue the use of military power against terrorists. Second, upon realising the stickiness and institutional endurance of post-9/11 security agencies, Obama’s opposition to war on terror-oriented policies motivated the administration to wage a supposedly more morally justifiable and effective counterterror strategy with the use of armed drones.



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