Since their introduction, drones have evolved into a preferred weapon platform for many of the world’s military forces. They are prolific in their utilization and deadly in their ability. However, drone strike data is highly inconsistent, as is the extent of reported casualties that have resulted from their use. This inconsistency is the impetus for this project’s principal goal: to assess the degree of variation between existing databases and to aggregate them in a new meta-database. Using an in-depth analysis of the available drone strike casualty data within an aggregated statistical modeling framework, further insight into this data variability is achieved. This study examines data from seven tracking organizations that measure drone strikes in the so-called ‘ghost wars’ in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and reveals a high degree of variation in the data. Furthermore, this study examines the relationship between mass media, public opinion, and elites, with the understanding that drone data may influence foreign policy decisions. This study contends that with no publicly available official data sources on these wars, and with dramatic levels of data deviation between the unofficial tracking organizations that currently measure casualty figures, there is a clear need for more consistent drone strike data.
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Thesis advisor: Moustafa, Tamir
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