Do Drones Undermine Democracy?



RE: Do drones undermine democracy?

A reply to an editorial in the New York Times, Sunday by Peter W. Singer. To read the article, click here.

Mr. Singer’s article in the Sunday Times argues that congress and our government need to be more involved in deciding whether to wage war using robots. He correctly points out that by removing the personal and political risk of war “they (politicians) no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.” His argument is cogent, but even if we adopt his recommendations, it won’t solve the central issue that should be addressed: robotic attacks are inherently immoral. Having congress approve such attacks won’t have any moral authority unless the ethical question of whether to use them at all is answered.

In the Republican debate in South Carolina last week, Ron Paul expressed a simple premise for our foreign policy; why not a “golden rule” test for policy…..the U.S. won’t do to other countries anything that we wouldn’t want done to us. His proposal was met with booing and jeers by the Republican audience, echoing their belief in “American Exceptional-ism” I suggest that in addition to the golden rule, another biblical value apropos here is that “pride goeth before a fall.”

The idea that America will have exclusive use of robotic weapons for any length of time is absurd, especially since we are busily selling robot technology worldwide. Unless things change, is inevitable that drones will be flying over the U.S. sooner or later.

Singer points out that “ten years ago, the idea of using armed robots in war was the stuff of Hollywood fantasy.” It is instructive to note that in almost all of these movies, the force employing robots against less technologically advanced populations were the bad guys. Us.

There is precedent for dealing with the problem of select nations having access to weapons that are so advanced that they disrupt the balance of world peace: nuclear weapons. When we dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in WW II, the world was stunned into silent disbelief, and after the Soviets obtained the bomb, it became apparent to all that international agreements to govern their use were necessary. Those agreements continue today as a successful (so far) work-in-progress, and similar agreements are needed to address the use of robotics if we want to keep our skies free of predator drones.

The Immorality of Predators


Call me naive. I believe the use of Predator remote-controlled aircraft in Pakistan and Afghanistan is immoral. The reason is simple; whoever kills by remote control has no physical risk to themselves.

The whole premise of war is that two sides in a conflict have decided to risk their lives in order to achieve their political goals. If one side has no risk of death, then it is slaughter or extermination that is taking place.

America has fought many wars. In most of them, we have enjoyed military superiority, and it is natural for each side to seek that superiority. But in none of those wars did we kill completely remotely; even the pilots who dropped the atomic bombs on Japan did so at their own risk.

The Afghan and Pakistani people will never accept the fact that Americans sitting in comfortable chairs in the suburbs of the USA are killing their people, even their enemies. Every Predator strike we make (many of which kill innocents) creates more enemies for the USA.