Undergraduate Honors Theses

The Worst Kept Secret: A Study of Drones and Their Political Implications

Kathleen M. Umphlett, University of Colorado, Boulder


The use of unmanned aerial vehicles aka drones has become a central tenet of American foreign policy. A myriad of sources exist that discuss the morality and legality of drone warfare. Yet, there is no analysis of the broader implications regarding how the United States chooses countries to be targeted. This project will remedy this by determining what the similarities between drone strike targets are, and how significant these characteristics are. A case study of five different countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, is conducted. The concluding results purport that a low GDP per capita, high level of terrorist activity, and a rural population are imperative in order for a country to be considered liable for a strike. There is a caveat to these qualifications; the country must also reside within the Greater Middle East.