Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Temptations (and Dangers) of Drone Warfare

In this piece in Sunday's NYT, Peter Singer makes some interesting and disturbing comments on the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in US foreign policy.

By taking at-risk human aircrew out of the picture and replacing them with risk-free, remote operators of unmanned vehicles, Singer suggests that the US has removed "the last political barriers to war". Essentially, he is saying that it's easier to fight a war when you have no skin in the game. By transferring the prosecution of drone campaigns from the military to the CIA, legislators and presidents are spared the difficult decisions and sacrifices called for in committing military forces to war, as well as the public debate in rallying voters to a decision to go to war. While Singer supports "most" of the drone strikes, he raises good questions about their role in undermining democratic governments, which have always depended on the commitment of their citizens, even to the point of military service, in defending ther freedoms.

These questions will become especially pressing when other countries beside the US and its allies begin deploying and using UAVs as weapons in their own undeclared wars, as will happen sooner rather than later. As Singer notes, some fifty countries are pursuing this military capability. The logic of escalation may eventually have a restraining influence on the use of UAV weapons, which can currently be used with near impunity, but before we get to that point, it would be useful to have a discussion about the ethics, temptations, and dangers of these weapons.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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