In his essay, “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama,” Conor Friedersdorf focused on the president’s use of drone strikes in Pakistan. Has the drone war gotten out of control? Friedersdorf debates the question with Michael Cohen of the Century Foundation.

Friedersdorf’s case:

Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.

Michael Cohen contends that there is little empirical evidence to prove that there are hundreds of civilian casualties resulting from drone warfare and academic studies that purport to show a large number of civilan casualties are based on “sloppy methodologies”. Cohen refuses to accept the government’s position that “no civilians are being killed,” but doesn’t accept what he characterizes as the media’s hyperbole that “hundreds of civilians are being killed”. He speculates that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Along the same lines, Kelley Vlahos, John Glaser, and Ximena Ortiz have assessed the effectiveness and human cost of America’s drone wars in Pakistan.