3 Ways That Drone Warfare Is Putting US Lives At Risk

It’s no secret that the Central Intelligence Agency has a drone warfare campaign: the tracking and lethal targeting of Islamist radicals in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The campaign is estimated to have killed at least 2,000 people, although no one knows exactly how many militants and how many innocent civilians have died. The death tolls are educated guesswork.

But is it making America any safer? While the drone strikes may take out some terrorists, don’t they also create serious risks for the United States?

But first, what do we know about drones?

In a time of cutbacks, Barack Obama has set aside around $5 billion for Predators and Reapers, “drones” in common parlance, signalling their growing importance as a policy instrument. The air force has struggled to supply enough crews for the multiplying hardware.

Here’s how Rory Carroll, writing in The Guardian, describes Holloman air force base in New Mexico, where pilots are trained to operate these planes not from cockpits but from trailers wedged in the sand, at a distance of 8000 miles.

The electronic cavern is dark, save for the glow of consoles, and Lt Col Mike Weaver surveys his apprentice warriors with satisfaction as they project American might halfway around the world. One crew – two young men in flight suits seated before half a dozen screens – prepares to fire missiles from a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) at a boatload of suspected insurgents in Afghanistan. Another crew circles a suspicious bulge by a roadside in Iraq and feeds co-ordinates to ground troops. Another tracks what appears to be a vehicle in Yemen.

Is this the future of US military force? If so, it’s a scary picture.

This year the base at Holloman will graduate 360 crews; each crew consists of a pilot, a sensory operator and sometimes a mission coordinator.

Is all this really keeping America safer? Critics suggest that drone warfare could actually be dangerous for the US.

1. Innocent civilians are murdered

Far from being precisely accurate, the number of civilians being accidentally killed seems to rise daily.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

A new joint study from New York and Stanford Universities, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma  to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” estimates from an analysis of public records that as many as 881 civilians, including 176 children, have been killed since the US covert drone program began.

2.  No one is overseeing the campaign

Although the rules for drone warfare by the US military in a declared war like Afghanistan are clear, when the CIA is using drones for covert purposes in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the extent of the oversight is far less clear.

It is traditionally the US military that wages war on behalf of the country. But what happens when the CIA is waging the wars instead, through drones whose operators may or may not be US military personnel?

The few members of Congress who should provide oversight and are briefed on such operations include the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate majority leader and the chairs of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, together known as the “Gang of Eight.” But actually, how much attention are they paying?

3.  The US is vulnerable to copycat attacks

CIA operations, being secret, don’t get scrutinized under any international law, so it’s easy for other countries to argue that they too are entitled to use armed drones. That’s a hard one to argue against.

So CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, for example, might be vulnerable to attacks from enemies who point out that, since the CIA is carrying out such attacks, their headquarters is also a legitimate military target.

And even beyond these pragmatic fears, what about the legal and human rights’ implications? There are plenty of critics of drone warfare, people like former president Jimmy Carter, who say that drone strikes are extrajudicial executions that violate nations’ sovereignty, stain the US reputation and provoke even more extremism.

What do you think? Is drone warfare a good idea?


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Photo Credit: jessicadolcourt


Rolland Nadjiwon
Rolland Nadjiwon4 years ago

...this does need to stop....

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago


Heidi H.
Past Member 5 years ago

As problematic as drones may be I think they are a way forward in saving many lives. As the technology improves so will the safety issues improve. Be positive.

Thom Loveless
Thom Loveless5 years ago

Forgive me if I don't give a damn how 'dangerous' drone attacks are to Americans. As far as I'm concerned the sinister bastards in dark buildings killing foreigners 5,000 miles away are legitimate military targets. How would you feel if drones from Pakistan started letting rip in the mid west? Not that I want them attacked but you know how it is....you made your own bed America, now you had better learn how to sleep in it.

Paul B.
Paul Barbara5 years ago

@ Lee W - (continueing my reply):
Colombia, and those they wish to overturn, like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Search 'Wesley Clark & Govrnments in 5 years'.
God bless, Paul B, London UK

Paul B.
Paul Barbara5 years ago

@ Lee W - Thank you for your response.
I haven't put a profile yet, only cos I haven't got around to it.
I hope your statement about 100 years ago does not indicate you believe the UK is 100 yrs behind y'all!
You covered a lot of territory; I'll try to address your main points.
Fact:Re CCTV, UK is the most CCTV'd country on earth, for population numbers.
Fact:The US trained, armed and supported the most thuggish regimes (the Military Juntas in South and Central America, and often worked to overthrow Democratically elected Govt.'s that weren't 'sweet' to US Multinational interests (read 'War is a Racket', Smedley Butler).
Fact:Predator drones are already in use over the US.
Like you, I hate that innocent people are losing their lives to terrorists or anyone else; truth is, infinitely more people have died, been tortured and raped due to 'State Terrorism', which is why I have been a Human Rights and Truth campaigner since the '70's.
I hope you don't take the Government or Main Stream Media's (MSM) word at face value, vis-a-vis 'terrorists under every bed': do a bit of alternative sleuthing.
Take Syria: as an antidote to MSM, search 'When is the Syrian 'Opposition' 'Syrian'? Znet.
Re pedophiles, check out 'John De Camp Conspiracy of Silence'; and 'Lori Handrahan Kevin Barrett', and be really shocked and sickened.
Remember the MSM and Govt. act totally hypocritically in their 'R2P' re Govt.'s they support, like Israel over Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Honduras, C

Kelly P.
John B5 years ago

My guess would be that the majority of our military budget is waste, absurd overcharges and pork...much of which goes for purchasing members of Congress, who keep voting for expensive jet planes that are fraught with problems, never see service, but are continually ressurected - even though the Pentagon didn't ask for them and doesn't want them. Oh yes, and bloated retirement pay for the brass. War is big business.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

My guess is that roughly half of the U S military budget is actually justified as national defense, roughly one fourth is about being the world's biggest bully, and the remaining fourth is pure pork barrel. Pork barrel is merely a waste of money. Being the world's biggest bully, we should oppose even before looking at the price tag.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y5 years ago

Interesting point, but of course 1., 2., and 3 are also profoundly true in conventional warfare:

1. Civilians are always killed and 'friendly' fire always happens, no matter how high-tech our equipment.

2. The 'fog of war' often prevents those in charge from seeing what's happening until a battle is over. And,

3. When you go to war you obviously invite a response in kind not only from your opponents but others on the sidelines who might decide 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'

Bottom line is if you're against drones you're against any kind of warfare. Double to nothingness if it's nuclear. Perhaps it's an intelligence test from the creator of the universe.

Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 5 years ago

Of course drone warfare is making ANY country a more dangerous place to live. How long do you think it will be before terrorists and other countries get their hands on the technology?