Discuss: Drones — the aerial version, not politicians
How comfortable would Americans be with the knowledge of teams of assassins dispatched by the White House and CIA with little independent review or oversight? Suspected terrorists are being taken out from Afghanistan to Yemen. Targets are hit, but the deadly operatives are unmanned aerial vehicles.
U.S. drone strikes are in the news, but the only apparent reaction from Americans is to worry about their potential role to catch speeders at home. What about their less understood presence in foreign policy.
The technology spares the use of U.S. aircrews for the pursuit of suspected militants, and they are cheaper than helicopters. They do not carry the financial and political costs of dispatching troops. Drones cross borders with impunity and chase down the bad guys unimpeded by geography or treaties. That ease of use makes them appealing to policymakers, and has drawn precious little scrutiny from Congress.
Our ostensible allies are furious. Once again Pakistani officials are upset over another U.S. drone strike, and Afghanistan's president blamed a "unilateral airstrike" for the death of 18 civilians. Such incidents erase hard won gains through counterinsurgency strategies on the ground.
The drones are constantly evolving because of their utility and low costs. One version called the Global Hawk is used for surveillance, and the Predator is armed. Another lightweight model called the Switchblade has the potential to be used by ground troops to attack nearby targets.
Here in the states, law enforcement, including the Seattle Police Department, is eager to use drones for tracking lost persons or suspects, fire coverage and surveying crime and accident scenes. The Obama administration directed Congress to make room in U.S. airspace for the UAVs.
The mobility, portability and relative low cost of drones suggest the technology will come back to haunt us.
How should these devices be employed to go after enemies of the United States? Should the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be empowered to review targets away from the battlefield? Suspected Taliban and al-Qaida agents mean us harm, but how much independence is appropriate in their pursuit in other countries?
Let us know in the comments below.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics