The Big Deal about Drones

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 6.55 pm

Q. Is there a particular reason to be opposed to drone use vs. manned craft? I understand the opposition to BOTH, but I’m wondering what your stance is in particular to drone use that is more egregious than manned government aircraft. — zigziggityzoo, from tumblr.

A. Well, I’m not keen on the government using manned or unmanned aircraft to spy on and/or assassinate Americans here at home or conduct “kill list”assassinations abroad. That said, there are a few reasons I talk about drones significantly more often:

  1. A lot of people — a majority of Americans, in fact — are very ok with them being used in both the scenarios I just described. Unmanned drones can prevent U.S. casualties in the immediate situation, and that seems like a good thing at first glance. But it’s also a very short-sighted view which ignores the sentiments drone strikes are producing in places like Pakistan and Yemen: “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.” Blowback is a real thing, and ignoring it because drones seem like a safe and convenient option now is foolish at best.
  2. Domestically, it’s drones which are being legally “justified” by the Obama Administration for extrajudicial strikes on Americans. If a memo had leaked saying all the same stuff about manned flights, I’d feel the same way about that.
  3. There’s a significant political will on the side of simply not debating drone use, especially abroad. That’s a horrible idea.
  4. Drone warfare is bad for the drone pilots as well as their victims.As I’ve argued before, drone warfare does more than remove American people from the situation: It also removes American humanity. This is a form of warfare in which those who do the actual killing can be thousands of miles removed from their targets. It’s inherently callous and minimizes the psychological cost of hitting the kill button.
  5. On a final, practical note, people are pretty much a fixed size. You can’t make a manned aircraft smaller than the person manning it. Drones, however, can be tiny. Like super tiny. The size of bugs, in fact. When it comes to surveillance, this makes drones much more of a threat than manned aircraft. You won’t miss the chopper hovering outside your window; you will miss the literal fly on the wall.
Posted in , ,