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From Recent lecture on Hopkins Drone Warfare connection.


Are drones disproportionately bad, or would the US just have sent some manned fighter to do the bombing instead. Three reasons why they are in fact changing the face of war.


Drones are the most civilian discriminatory weapon at a rate of 50:1 : While I doubt the statistics are accurate, aerial warfare in general has disproportionate effects on civilians (increase in ration of civilians to combatants since WW2): It does seem that drones are far less discriminatory.

According to David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum (New York Times, 5/19/09), the United States kills 50 unintended targets for each intended target of a drone attack. As one intelligence source told The Nation: “If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That’s the mentality.… They’re not accountable to anybody and they know that.”

Drones lower the threshold on which action is taken: If we imagine a strategist sitting in an office deciding on whether to call for a bombing run, the absence of any risk to human life lowers the threshold on which this action is taken significantly. If no one dies, no families find out, it is easier to hide the mission until the bombs actually fall, and the disposable drones are almost too easy to send in to do the job. Drones are particularly oriented towards assassination and de-link the weight of decision making from the lives of those targeted. That is it truly does dehumanize because there is no human risk involved for the attacker. Yes all Aerial bombardment does this, but because the cost of drones is so low this makes it a particularly easy weapon to deploy and furthers the assured self confidence of aggressive US policy (and soon other countries)

Legal loopholes: Because Humans are indirectly and perhaps soon eve not at all, linked to the drone action, there are legal loopholes about whether mobilizing them is an act of war (in the US). Thus drones can be used covertly by the CIA and officially in countries where the US isn’t at war (obviously weak states as well). It is not clear how the drone program can get around geneva conventions but it is being done.

Other problems that are resolvable to my mind are the technical difficulties, software problems, proliferation problems, the plain creepiness of them.

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