By Joshua Russell
Armed drones have become one of the weapons of choice for the United States over the past few years. The rapid expansion of their use has not received a great deal of notice by the public in this country until recently.
While some concerns over drones have been raised due to civilian deaths, such as a 13 year-old boy in Yemen, drones are still largely seen as a safe alternative to using actual combat troops.
Why should we not use drones? After all, is it not better to lose equipment rather than lives and equipment? Such arguments are commonly used by supporters of armed drones, but they are woefully misguided. Drones have allowed the United States to quickly expand lethal operations to areas that would never have seen actual military personnel. The ease with drones are used currently has a very real potential to suck the United States into a vortex of endless war.
MCC participated in a large, interfaith conference at Princeton Theological Seminary in January, which released a succinct set of policy recommendations on drones.
Despite this, on February 17, the Obama administration announced that it would begin selling armed drones to foreign countries that meet vaguely-worded standards set by the Department of Defense.
Now today, the world has learned of one of the many shortcomings of drones. In a press conference this morning (April 23rd), President Obama announced that armed U.S. drones had inadvertently killed two innocent hostages of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. One hostage was an Italian citizen, while the other was a citizen of the United States. Both men were career foreign aid workers who had been in Pakistan for several years.
Some people will see this incident as tragic but unavoidable collateral damage in war. However, what this tragedy actually shows is the dangers of becoming over-reliant on armed drones as the solution to all problems, as well as the United States’ more general tendencies to rely on force as the first (and frequently only) solution. Furthermore, the U.S. drone program is shrouded in secrecy with unknown accountability, which makes its consequences all the more terrifying.
The deaths in Pakistan that were reported today are not a problem within the system, they are the embodiment of the problem itself.