Thinking about drones gets me excited. That might sound like a strange statement, particularly since I know nothing about the actual technology behind them — I’m a political science major, not a mechanical engineer. When I say I’m excited about drones, I mean I’m excited about the potential benefits that they pose for the United States militarily.
Although drones have been getting a bad rap over the years, especially more recently, Americans should welcome their presence, for drones provide a way to protect the United States, its ideals and the government and military personnel who make daily sacrifices to ensure the United States’ survival and the well-being of its citizens. Despite the mystery and controversy that surrounds drones, they should be considered a valuable asset because of their ability to carry out counterterrorism operations.
No matter how far we get from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism is not going to go away — at least not any time soon. In the last 12 years since the attacks, the United States has engaged in two wars and countless missions to safeguard the United States against future attacks like those on 9/11. Counterterrorism operations often center on the surveillance and elimination of key Al Qaeda figures, both of which are extremely dangerous. Given the choice between endangering American military personnel or a drone, which would you choose?
To me, this is an easy choice. I choose to endanger the drone.
Critics of drone use would choose to endanger American military personnel because of the drones’ potential to commit civilian casualties. I find this argument unconvincing, however, because human beings are just as capable of committing human casualties as drones ARE. In reference to this notion, freelance journalist Joshua Foust noted, “Morality is not a perfect, or even impenetrable construct. It has stress points … machines don’t have the same points of failure.”
Human beings are just as capable, if not more capable, of making mistakes in military operations due to the stress of their work. If we’re going to engage in combat, casualties are going to occur. Given the potential for loss of life, regardless of whether drones or military personnel are involved, would it not be better if we chose the option that kept Americans out of the line of fire? I’d say that’s the purpose of the American military — to protect Americans, including its military personnel.
American lives should be the United States’ priority. Drone usage in counterterrorism prioritizes both American civilians and U.S. military personnel. This does not make drones professionaL killing robots.
Of course there are cons to the use of drones. The U.S. government has not been very forthcoming about drone technology and its exact uses. But if you think about it, drones are top-secret military technology. Why would Americans want to give our enemies insight into how our drone program works? Wouldn’t that mean we would just have to come up with another way that our enemies don’t know about to achieve the same ends?
Drones and the mystery that surrounds them provide the United States with a strategic advantage because drones will be less identifiable in the field. American security, not transparency, should be our priority. Transparency endangers our security by allowing our enemies to see our assets, weaknesses and strategies.
Military drone use is not going to be something that everyone is going to agree on. However, that doesn’t limit its potential to protect our troops and our nation simultaneously. Simply put, drones are a more effective and efficient way to combat our enemies. What’s the point in opposing that?
Blair Rotert is a senior at UC Berkeley.