The Washington Post

Americans are fine with drone strikes. Everyone else in the world? Not so much.

Despite plenty of debate in Congress, a majority of the American people (52 percent) remain in favor of using drones against extremists on foreign soil.

On that count, though, the United States is in the distinct minority on the Planet Earth.

While a slight majority in the United States approve of drone strikes, only two other countries— Kenya and Israel — approve of them. (Kenya has had success in using drones to reduce poaching by 96 percent — perhaps explaining their pro-drone posture.)

Meanwhile, Israel is the world's biggest exporter of drones, and has used drones against Palestinian militants — which would explain why Palestinians only give U.S. drone strikes a 7 percent approval rating.

Just about everywhere else in the world, opposition to drone strikes is sweeping. And the global distaste has only grown more resounding in the past year.

Here's last year. While 11 countries back then had at least 40 percent approval of U.S drone strikes, today there are only four such countries.

Support for drones in the United States has also dropped by nine percentage points in the past year, but Americans still stand as some of the strikes' strongest supporters -- and have for awhile. In 2011, a Pew poll found that 68 percent of the public approved of drone strikes.

Similarly, a Gallup poll in March 2013 found that 65 percent of Americans thought the United States should use drones against suspected terrorists in other countries. And a February 2012 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approved of using of un-manned, “drone” aircraft against terrorism suspects overseas.


Why the humongous gulf in approval between the United States and the rest of the world? Drone airstrikes look a lot different when you are exporting the strikes instead of expecting them.

For Americans, drone airstrikes are something that protects citizens at home — and prevent them from getting killed in warfare abroad. It's the least-bad solution for how to stay out of international politics as much as possible — which is what Americans increasingly say they want, according to a Pew survey from April.

With drone strikes, the United States is still very much involved in world politics — and in a way that many countries disapprove of. For American citizens, though, it doesn't feel that way. Soldiers are coming home. War fronts — ones that many at home considered to be a mistake — are closing.

And drones are protecting Americans at home — Americans' biggest foreign policy concern — while keeping us out of the stuff that Americans don't care much about.

We're not kidding. Americans really, really don't care about foreign policy right now — especially when they don't have to worry about losing American lives abroad.

In fact, Americans think drones have made America safer than most other high-profile foreign policy efforts, like the war in Afghanistan or the National Security Agency's surveillance tactics.

However, disapproval of drone strikes in the United States has grown over the past few years. The factors that have left Americans uninterested in most foreign policy is bleeding over into opinions on drones. Libertarians have railed against drones domestically for privacy concerns — one Colorado town debated whether they should begin shooting down invasive aircraft — or for fear they will be used against American citizens.

But that's not enough for drones to become an electoral issue, or to push the government to change policies on drone strikes. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the leading figures cautious of drone strikes, has quieted on the issue as the 2016 presidential primaries grow nearer. It's not an issue Americans care about enough to want to disturb the status quo.

And, weirdly enough, it's not an issue that most of the world cares about enough to raise a stink over either.

Despite the widespread opposition to drone strikes, most countries trust Obama to "do the right thing"...

...and most regions like the United States, too.


Americans are fine with drones, and the world is fine with Americans — at least right now. Which means this is one area of foreign policy the government is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.

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