Thursday, November 1, 2012

Drones


The Obama Administration's expansion of the drone program makes me very uncomfortable.

I worry about the morality of killing people with drones. I also worry that any military benefit of drones is outweighed by the hatred of America that they engender, because the hatred increases the likelihood of future terrorist attacks.

My questions/fears/doubts are significant enough that drones are one of the issues that have caused me to consider voting against Obama next Tuesday.

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I have trouble articulating my drone questions clearly.  To that end, Kurt Volker's op-ed in the Post last Sunday (What the US Risks by Relying on Drones, here) was very helpful.

Volker says that there are four major problems related to our reliance on drones:
 
1. Morality.
More people have been killed in U.S. drone attacks than were ever incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. Can we be certain there were no cases of mistaken identity or innocent deaths? Those detained at Guantanamo at least had a chance to establish their identities, to be reviewed by an oversight panel and, in most cases, to be released. Those who remain at Guantanamo have been vetted and will ultimately face some form of legal proceeding. Those killed in drone strikes, whoever they were, are gone. Period.
2. Effects.
Drone strikes may decapitate terrorist organizations, but they do not solve our terrorist problem. In fact, drone use may prolong it. Even though there is no immediate retaliation, in the long run the contributions to radicalization through drone use may put more American lives at risk.
3. The spread of drones to other countries.
[European allies, Russia, China and Iran] ... are acquiring and beginning to use drones for surveillance — eventually, they will use them for killing as well. What would we say if others used drones to take out their opponents — whether within their own territory or internationally? Imagine China killing Tibetan separatists that it deemed terrorists or Russia launching drone strikes on Chechens. What would we say? What rules would we urge them to abide by?
4. National identity.
What do we want to be as a nation? A country with a permanent kill list? ... A country that instructs workers in high-tech operations centers to kill human beings on the far side of the planet because some government agency determined that those individuals are terrorists?
I think Volker's points about morality and national identiy are especially strong. 

I worry that we are collectively going down the drone road without talking and thinking about how it could affect us individually and nationally.

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