The Implications of U.S. Drones

Gareth Jones  Journal Staff

It is estimated that over 70 countries are now in possession of some sort of unmanned aircraft. Ten years ago, the United States had total domination of this market, but drones are becoming more popular as their wide range of potential uses becomes more evident. However, the overwhelming majority of top-line technologically dominant drone hardware is still in use by the American military, and with this activity has come criticism.

What unsettles many critics of the new technology (aside from the fact that only a few of the people literally mowed down from thousands of feet in the air were actually holding guns) is the enormous gap between the two side’s military prowess. While it’s easy to dismiss the fate of probable terrorists in a war-torn nation on the other side of the world, this unprecedented advantage raises some unpleasant questions about the future of law enforcement in general.

As previously stated, the United States no longer enjoys the monopoly on drone technology they once did, but, to put it bluntly, our drones are still better than anyone else’s. Since we invented and developed the idea, we have further enjoyed a total monopoly on how, when, where, and why to use them. However, as the international community becomes more aware of the potential of these sometimes tiny, unmanned air craft, questions about regulation begin to emerge. And, rightly so.

In light of the recent turmoil between China and Japan over the uninhabited Senaku Islands in the South China Sea, Chinese drones now continuously circle the islands looking for what China considers “illegal activity.” Stanford and Yale Law Schools released a study last spring that claimed up to 98 percent of drone strikes involved civilian casualties, a far cry from the surgical precision the Pentagon has previously claimed.

In the coming months and years, you can expect more and more attention, and eventually the vocal but ineffective Security Council resolutions condemning drone related violence somewhere. And keep in mind, all this is on the international level. “It’s on the other side of the world,” you’re thinking to yourself, “so why should I care?” Let me paint you a little picture.

You’re ten minutes late to pick up your daughter or little sister or significant other, with another 15 minutes to go while they wait out in the cold dark. Coming up ahead on the highway is a stretch of about half-a-mile where the speed limit, for arbitrary and outdated reasons happens to drop from 65 to 55 mph. You’re going 70. No cop in his right mind is going to pull you going 70 in a 65, and most cops, realizing when speed limits drop like that, have enough humanity in them to let you fly by at 70. The key word here is humanity. Drones have no humanity. They see numbers, and if your numbers are bad, you’re getting a ticket.

Some of you might think, “I am a law abiding citizen, thus I have nothing to fear.” Firstly, I encourage you to look into George Orwell’s 1984. And secondly, think of me the next time you’re in a hurry and crossing Tremont Street while the lights are red. There are no cars coming, you can hear your train pulling up to Park Street down below, but the light is still red. Do you cross? I do, and unless you’re lying to yourself, so do you. They call it jaywalking, and it’s a $50 fine. Tell it to the judge (while the judge is still human!) and call your congressperson the next time drones come up in Congress, which I assure you, will be soon.

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Gus Blake  Opinion Editor

President Barack Obama has been accelerating unconscionable acts of violence initiated by former President George W. Bush, and with infuriatingly little reaction from the mainstream media or the American public. These egregious acts include keeping entire countries and populations terrorized, angry, and seeking retribution. This would be none other than the President’s “secret kill listand Predator drone program, which people throughout the Middle East – especially Pakistan, must live with.

It is difficult to imagine that our own President – a leader of what is supposedly the greatest bastion of freedom and liberty in the world – would have the power and conscious to terrorize innocent civilians with unmanned, heavily-armed aerial vehicles. Believe me; I understand that there are many people being targeted by these drones who have routinely and methodically plotted to kill innocent civilians, including Americans. However, we must stop to think, “Is this drone program justified or is it counterproductive?”

One of the most alarming figures is the number of innocent civilians murdered by someone half-way around the world, and they are able to do so without repercussions for their clear disregard for human life. Not even Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, a 16-year-old American citizen, was spared in one drone strike in Yemen, yet the silence on the part of the media, administration, and public was deafening. This boy was labeled as a “military-age boy in his 20s” as justification to proceed with the drone strike, just as with dozens of other incidents where children are disregarded in order to avoid international rules.

In some cases, including the murder of Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi’s father, American citizens were explicitly targeted without due process of the law. Abdulrahman’s father, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was known for writing anti-American propaganda and was placed on Obama’s kill list for merely inspiring radical Islamists. Without sufficient evidence, the drone strike – which was within the borders of a country which we were not at war with went through, and at least one other American citizen was also killed in the attack on suspicion of guilt by association.

In some cases, guilt by association was taken so far that the funerals of those killed by drone strikes were also targeted, with more women and children in Pakistan consistently murdered. I believe it is clear that the potential for a vicious cycle of violence is all too apparent. We should also note that with the excessive amounts of collateral damage presented by Obama’s drone program, we are in effect breeding new terrorist threats as people seek retribution.

These drone strikes not only bring about collateral damage, but are also bringing forth the potential for endless war. The emotions felt during war are removed by taking the soldier out of the field and placing them in a video game-like control station. One is able to kill indiscriminately, without harm to one’s self, and the American public feels no pain or sacrifice we would otherwise feel if a soldier must be shipped off for combat or dies in a battle. We are essentially left with an American public ignorant of the ills of war and unable to see the effects or feel the pain.

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