Over the past few weeks, I have become entrenched and addicted to the Showtime drama, Homeland, which is about a CIA agent who is tracking a POW who recently returned back home from service. The kicker is, he was turned during his captivity in Iraq. For you other Homeland addicts, I just watched the finale of the first season. (Spoiler alert so you can look away for a sentence), we find out the bombing that killed Abu Nazir’s son was a drone strike that was covered up by the CIA and ordered by the Vice President in the show.
In the back of my head, I thought, well, that’s pretty messed up. All of those kids just died in the name of locating a terrorist? The best part is they didn’t kill who they were looking for; instead, dozens of innocent children were killed.
Homeland didn’t introduce me to drones or cast a light on how shady the whole program is – rather, it hit me with something I was emotionally attached to in my new favorite show.
Again, I have always thought drones were a slippery slope and I lambast the Bush and Obama administrations for expanding their use without working out the legal ramifications. Nonetheless, albeit fictional, I saw first hand in the show my first drone strike.
So let me paint a little picture for you. Let’s say that al-Qaeda decides to amass a UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle, the less bad-ass sounding name for a drone – program for themselves, and they are somehow able to fly them over U.S. soil, and they send off a missile in Washington D.C. right outside of an elementary school in the city because President Obama’s motorcade was driving by. It explodes and kills dozens of innocent students and misses Obama’s motorcade.
Or better yet, let’s flip the example using our own sovereignty. Let’s say a suspected criminal is hiding out in his house, and instead of the police coming into to raid the house, read him his Miranda rights and arrest him, there is a drone strike ordered upon his home and he is blown to pieces without said due process.
This right here is the tight rope the government is balancing with drone warfare. As we speak, politicians are pushing back against the use of drones, as the current standards are extremely flimsy.
Don’t get me wrong, drones have a myriad of positives – no loss of American lives or commitment of troops, they gain credible intelligence from above, they can get places that troops cannot especially in treacherous mountain ranges, they are extremely high powered equipment with lower overall costs, etc.
Since the expansion of the program during the Bush administration shortly after 9/11, the causalities have dramatically minimized. Nevertheless, there are also the overwhelming negatives – civilian deaths, lack of adherence to state sovereignty (i.e., Pakistan), the fact that some guy in Arizona is operating the vessel and goes home for dinner after he’s done, and many more.
Moreover, the slippery slope we are treading, as I alluded to earlier is this: what if drones are used by other countries or terrorist organizations? What if China – who is right on the heels of the United States in terms of military spending and economic prowess – gets their hands on a drone? What will their intentions be? What if North Korea expands their drone program? They’ve already threatened us with nuclear warheads, why not with drones? Or, the most immediate threats, al-Qaeda or Iran?
President Obama has overseen hundreds of drone strikes, would it be so farfetched that al-Qaeda could see him as a terrorist and seek to take him out with their own drones? Wouldn’t you be fed up if you had to live in fear of the ominous humming of a drone over head and the ambiguous possibility of a missile hitting near your home? Wouldn’t you want some sort of retaliation?
These exact thoughts may very well be in the minds of Pakistani citizens – and many others – who have fallen victim to the after-effects of the United States drone strikes.
Am I saying we should get rid of drones completely? No, as I said, there are tons of positives. I am however saying that the United States needs to think long and hard about what we have started.
What do you think the United States should do about the use of drones? How do you think the rest of the world will handle their use of drone?