Pretty much all of us are aware that militaries are using drones now, and I’m pretty sure we have an idea about how they work. What I was pretty ignorant about until lately was the implications of widespread drone usage. Those implications surprised me and so I’m endeavouring to be one of what I believe to be a very small number of westerners to spread a bit of awareness on the subject.
Drones come in a lot of shapes and sizes and can mean a lot of things, but in this context I’m talking about using unmanned vehicles to do military strikes. There are of course drones used for non-violent purposes like surveillance and bomb disarming by the military but today I’m talking about armed drones.
Armed drones are not generally remote-control vehicles with guns and bombs. Remote control vehicles can be subject to security risks like signal jamming and even more dangerously signal piracy (not an official term, but meaning the potential for someone with a bigger/closer antenna along with the encryption codes and probably a few other security breaking measures – taking over the drone and sending it after a different target). No, remote control isn’t used as much as we’d hope. Usually these drones are autonomous. They have a program with parameters and they execute those parameters without any human steering the controls.
I hope the humanitarian implications of that are obvious. There’s going to be civilian casualties from that sort of delivery system, that’s a given. However, while every innocent life lost is a tragedy; war is war and innocent lives have and will continue to be lost with or without drones. And while there are some fairly questionable things a certain military power is doing to insulate it’s self from the legal backlash of using such an imprecise method of killing, I don’t think that’s particularly game changing. There are some far more Pandora-inspiring aspects to drones.
Drones re-write the resource requirement book in regards to modern warfare.
Let me explain.
Wars used-to cost more than money. They also require public support, and by extension; people willing to potentially sacrifice their lives. That was the true resource. It was more than just the wages of a soldier, it was the indoctrination, the training, the goodwill required to take a young man just beginning his productive existence as an adult and potentially send him to his death. All that costs costs a huge amount, and that’s just a soldier. With a suicide bomber the resources for finding a viable candidate and indoctrinating them is quite high as well which makes suicide bombers a very coveted military asset. Drones make suicide bombers obsolete.
My point is, human resources are limited. Money, comparatively speaking, is not.
The implication here is that right now the United States is conducting the lion’s share their war against Al Qaeda without having to worry about that fickle goodwill of the American people by using drones. No one cares about wars that are happening as long as their sons and friends aren’t dying. There might be deaths, but those deaths are somewhere else and there are always more pressing concerns in the here and now.
But that’s a good thing, right? More (literal) bang for the buck! Sure, until it comes back the other way. Drones are cheap for EVERYONE and makes payback just a little bit more accessible.
That’s problem with drones. They’re just one aspect of Pandora’s big-ol box that’s being opened in warfare these days. Drones can be made out of parts that could potentially be bought at Radio Shack. The programming can be potentially stolen, imitated, and altered and the methods of detecting and stopping the construction and deployment of destructive drones becomes more of a logistical implausibility with each passing day.
We North Americans haven’t seen any widespread armed conflict on our shores in a very long while, but this is just one of the reasons why I believe this good fortune could be ending in the relatively near future.