International Law, Military Effectiveness, and Public Support for Drone Strikes
Published in the Journal of Peace Research (2016)
46 Pages Posted: 20 May 2015 Last revised: 30 Nov 2016
Date Written: May 19, 2015
The increasing reliance on drone strikes for counterterrorism has become the subject of considerable debate. Proponents point to drones as both effective for disrupting terrorist networks and compatible with international law. Critics respond that attacks create more terrorists than they kill and violate legal commitments. The central question we ask in this article is whether these international legal criticisms impact public support for drone strikes, the centerpiece of American counterterrorism policy, or whether individuals are more persuaded by arguments about effectiveness. Employing a survey experiment of a nationally representative U.S. sample, we find public support for drone strikes is moved more by legal principles than by military effectiveness, effects corroborated by a follow-up experiment that further unpacks the mechanisms through which international legal norms operate. Our findings speak to fundamental questions about when individuals will support the use of force and the domestic politics of states’ commitments to international law.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation