The Long-Term Consequences Of The Drone Wars

Recent years have seen a sharp increase in the use of drones – unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – principally by the United States in its war against Islamist militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. At least several hundred civilians are also believed to have been killed by drones since the early 2000s, and their use is attracting increasing controversy.

In Business Monitor Online today, we have a special feature on the drone wars.

Why Is The US Increasingly Using Drones?

  • Drones are seen as a low-risk tool for the US, because no pilots are put in harm’s way.
  • Drones provide the US with a low-key tool for attacking its enemies in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
  • Drones are much cheaper than manned fighter jets.

The Risks Associated With Using Drones

  • The ‘casual’ use of drones lowers the threshold for going to war. Also, wars initiated by drones could escalate to the point where actual soldiers are required.
  • Hundreds of civilians have been killed by drones. Drone strikes are seen as particularly cowardly, because the pilots are not in harm’s way.
  • Drone usage raises legal questions, and there are growing concerns about the lack of transparency in the US’ policy on targeting, and the apparent lack of judicial oversight.
  • US drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan have seriously strained bilateral relations.
  • Drone strikes have increased tensions in Pakistani communities, with militants having carried out reprisals on local populations, for fear that local spies have passed targeting intelligence to the US.
  • Drone strikes have not brought stability to countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Although drone pilots are out of harm’s way, they are known to suffer stresses caused by the contradictions of waging war remotely by day and returning to a normal family life in the evening.

Long-Term Implications Of The Drone Wars

  • More countries are developing or purchasing drones, leading to fears of an arms race.
  • Although the focus of drones has been on unmanned aerial vehicles, we will soon see more ground- and sea-based unmanned vehicles.
  • Drones will increasingly be used for domestic purposes – such as disaster relief, environmental monitoring, and border security, but also for police surveillance, raising fears of a ‘big brother’ state.
  • Cyber security will become increasingly important, amid concerns that militant or terrorist groups could hack into drone control systems to sabotage them or turn them against their owners.
  • Drone warfare raises serious ethical questions, and images of drones being used to suppress protestors will send chills around the world, raising the spectre of a man-versus-machine conflict.
  • Eventually, drone computers may become sufficiently advanced that human decision-making could be removed from their operations. In other words, the drone might ‘decide’ whether to attack targets.

This Week’s Trivia Question

Last week’s trivia question was on cities. We asked, which world city announced this week that it would need to expand its land supply by 8% to accommodate a 30% increase in its population to almost seven million by 2030? The answer is Singapore. We also asked, how long did it take for Rome’s population to return to its Empire-era peak? The answer is around 1,800-1,900 years between the first century AD and the 1930s.

Our question this week is as follows: In view of Liechtenstein’s election last weekend, which Central London landmark was partly donated to the City of Westminster in the 1980s by Liechtenstein? Hint: West End cinema-goers will probably have walked past it.