Parameters | Winter/Spring 2013
By Alan W. Dowd
Unmanned combat aerial vehicles
(UCAVs) are the wonder weapons of today’s wars. UCAVs have been credited with
striking the convoy carrying Moammar Qaddafi; killing al Qaeda’s Abu Yahya al-Libi and Anwar al-Awlaki; eviscerating
the Taliban’s ranks and other militants in the AfPak theater; and hitting
targets from Asia to Africa—all without putting their pilots in harm’s way.
The drone revolution promises many benefits, but there are also drawbacks
to this nascent unmanned air force—drawbacks that few policymakers have
contemplated. Just as drone detractors need to acknowledge what UCAVs
bring to the table, UCAV advocates need to acknowledge the negative
implications of drone warfare.
Today and Tomorrow
Whatever one’s view of UCAVs, the appeal of drones is understandable. As
an Air Force report concludes, drones “are not limited by human
performance or physiological characteristics…extreme persistence and
maneuverability are intrinsic benefits.”In other words, drones can handle what humans cannot—G forces and speed, tedium
and boredom. Among the other “intrinsic benefits” of drones: they deprive the
enemy of human targets, they don’t get tired or thirsty or hungry, they are
relatively inexpensive, and with the coming of nuclear-powered drones, they
offer the possibility of nearly endless above-target operation.
It’s no surprise, then, that drones
are beginning to dislodge manned aircraft from the crucial role they have
played in warfighting since World War II. Consider some of the evidence:
There has been a 1,200-percent
increase in combat air patrols by drones since 2005.
In the past decade, the U.S. drone
fleet has swelled from 50 planes to 7,500, though the vast majority of these
drones are not UCAVs.Still, drones represent 31 percent of the Pentagon’s air fleet
America’s unmanned air
force—including drones deployed by the military and the CIA—has struck targets
in Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and
the Philippines. UCAVs are so central to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan
and Pakistan that some observers have dubbed this front of the anti-terror
campaign “the drone war.”
Referring to the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen declared not long
before he retired, “There are those that see the JSF as the last manned fighter
or fighter-bomber.” Raising more than a few eyebrows, he added, “I’m one that’s
inclined to believe that.”
Two factors are accelerating the use of drones: the public’s growing
distaste for U.S. casualties and the Pentagon’s shrinking share of the budget.
Regarding the former, it pays to
recall that the American people’s tolerance for casualties has waxed and waned
over the decades. They obviously have had a high threshold for casualties at
times. For example, despite far higher casualty levels than recent conflicts, public
support remained high throughout World War II and during much of Vietnam.
However, that changed dramatically after Vietnam. The result was a
quarter-century of push-button, almost-bloodless wars (at least for Americans),
each conditioning the American people to expect less bloodshed than the
previous conflict. This, in turn, conditioned political and military leaders to
deliver more push-button, bloodless wars. The 9/11 attacks briefly broke this
cycle, having an effect on the American public that was not dissimilar from
Pearl Harbor. Consider a CNN poll conducted after 9/11 asking Americans if they
would support military action even if it meant 5,000 American troops would be killed.
In a sign of their grim, if ephemeral, determination, 76 percent said yes.
Of course, those attitudes have shifted,
predictably, during what one observer calls “the wars of 9/11.”Land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been lengthy and costly, with 4,485
American troops killed in Iraq and more than 2,147 killed in the
still-unfinished Afghanistan war, America’s longest shooting war. In the wake
of Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no coincidence that UCAVs are playing a central
role in U.S. military operations as Americans grow weary of war’s toll. Instead
of putting boots on the ground in Libya, for example, Washington unleashed
swarms of drones. In fact, the
missiles that hit Qaddafi’s escaping convoy were fired not by an artilleryman
marching through the desert or an F-18 pilot prowling overhead, but by a
remote-control warrior sitting in the safety of a nondescript building outside
Las Vegas. Annual drone strikes in Pakistan
increased from one in 2004 to 117 in 2010, when they peaked.The Brookings Institution
estimates that as many as 2,769 militants have been killed by UCAV strikes in Pakistan.Today, the frequency and ferocity
of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are following the same escalating trajectory
that characterized the drone war in Pakistan.
As to the Pentagon’s diminishing share of the budget, “Drones, Not Marines” blared one
headline after President Barack Obama unveiled his plan for scaling-back the
U.S. military. Defending the president’s vision of a smaller military, The New York Times assured its readers
that “Many of the challenges out there can be dealt with by air power,
intelligence, special operations or innovative technologies like drones.”
Media outlets are getting their cues
from the Pentagon. “As we reduce the overall defense budget,” outgoing Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta explained, “we will protect, and in some cases increase,
our investments in special operations forces, in new technologies like…unmanned
systems.”Similarly, an Air Force report suggests
that drones promote “the wisest use of tax dollars.” A typical Predator drone, for
instance, costs $4.5 million, while an F-35 costs $159 million, an F-22 $377
million, a B-2 nearly $2 billion. Moreover, training UCAV controllers costs
less than a tenth what it costs to train traditional combat aviators.
In short, the emergence of an
unmanned air force is not far away:
In addition to its growing fleet
of reconnaissance and surveillance drones, the Army’s Grey Eagle/Sky Warrior drone—sharing
bloodlines with the Predator—has been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
Army is asking industry partners to develop a small, hand-launched drone that
can strike targets six miles away.
The Navy is testing a
carrier-borne UCAV, the X-47B, which is being put through its paces aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
(Related, the Navy is also developing missile-laden robot warships, such as the
unmanned surface vessel precision
The Air Force
envisions deploying swarms of drones networked together to “operate in a variety of lethal and non-lethal missions at the command of a
many as five drones per pilot.
The Air Force wants America’s
next-generation bomber, the Long Range Strike bomber, to be “optionally
UCAVs equipped with
“target-recognition systems” and “autonomous attack systems” are on the
The Pentagon plans to double the
drone fleet by 2020, as the size of the manned bomber and fighter force
In 2011, the Air Force trained
more pilots to fly drones than fighter and bomber pilots combined.The Air Force Academy class of 2011 was the first to graduate cadets with
specialties in operating drones.
Combat aviators know a trend when they see one. In fact, “Hundreds
of Air Force pilots are transitioning to drones from traditional manned
aircraft,” according to an F-15E pilot interviewed for this essay. An Air Force
Academy graduate with 20 years in the Air Force, including hundreds of hours of
combat, the pilot concedes that he is biased when it comes to the drone debate,
before adding, “Many of the veteran pilots I know that transitioned to drones were
effectively forced there by having few desirable alternatives.”
In fact, an Air Force report on drones concedes that growth in demand for unmanned
systems has made relying on“experienced pilots” to
fly drones “unsustainable.”So the Air Force is tasking personnel with no flight experience to drone
operations, developing a pilot career field with specialized drone training
“distinct from current manned aircraft pilot training” and planning to task
multiple drones to a single operator.In addition, the Air Force envisions programs that will increase use of “computer-based
training and virtual instruction…The goal will be to move all Air Force UAS [unmanned
aircraft systems] training programs to accomplish 75 percent of all training
through self-study, allowing virtual instructors to introduce and practice
mission tasks with students.”In other words, not only will the planes be unmanned and automated, so will the
A Human Action
Man’s first weapon was his hands. That
helps explain why war was once conducted face-to-face. Rocks and spears
increased the distance between warriors. The sling, the bow and the arrow
increased it further, though warriors could still see each other. David was close
enough to see that the giant “had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat
of scale armor of bronze.”In arguably the most famous decapitation strike in history, David eliminated
Goliath with the stand-off weapon of his day: the slingshot. “Taking out a
stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank
into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.”
With gunpowder and the musket, the
distance between warriors increased further. Artillery and cannon made it
possible to kill the enemy without seeing him. Airplanes and rocketry became an
extension of artillery, adding a new dimension to the battlefield. This
multi-dimensional area of land, sea and sky where war is waged is the modern
battle-space. Soldiers and Marines fight there on the ground; sailors fight
there on and under the water; and airmen fight there in the sky and at the edge
of space. Nowadays, drones are there too, of course, but their pilots are not.
Drones are unique because they completely separate the warrior from the
battle-space—that is, unless we define the battle-space as the entire planet (a
conundrum discussed below).
That disconnection from the
battle-space is arguably transformational. After all, in the evolutionary steps
before the drone age, the warfighter was in the battle-space. This allowed the
warfighter to apply his judgment directly to the battle. Absence from the
battle-space can contribute to an absence of judgment that makes combat drones worrisome
to the F-15E pilot referenced above, who sees unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as “invaluable tools when
used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.” Still, he and other
combat aviators have qualms about the use of drones in a strike or attack role.
“The difference between UCAV pilots at remote locations and
manned aircraft pilots flying in the battle-space is similar to the difference
between a police officer on the beat and one watching the streets from a
command center via closed-circuit TV,” one F-15E pilot argues. “Just as the
policeman on the street brings judgment, a frame of reference and
accountability to a situation, so does the pilot in the battle-space. When
police officers are on the street, the environment and their proximity to the
people in their realm of influence demand a different level of judgment and
accountability than would be required from someone sitting in a control room. A
police officer knows he is accountable. The consequences of his actions are
real to him. His experiences shape his judgment in life-and-death situations.
That’s how it is with combat aviators.”
This is not to say that pilots in
the cockpit do not have lapses of judgment, or that being in the battle-space
does not carry its own attendant pressures, such as fear, anger or fatigue. We
know that human judgment sometimes fails and can be affected by those pressures.
But when that happens, we are able to hold humans accountable for their
mistakes. There is some solace even in this—that when a pilot makes a mistake,
he or she will be held accountable. War, as Michael Walzer observes, is “a
human action…for whose effects someone is responsible.”
Yet who is held responsible when a
UAV or UCAV goes AWOL? This is not exactly a rare occurrence. AWOL drones have
crashed in eastern Iran, collided with cargo planes, smashed into Djibouti
neighborhoods, and veered so dangerously off course and out of control that
manned jets have been dispatched to destroy them. The Air Force concedes that
its Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk drones crash more than any other
aircraft—nine are lost for every 100,000 hours flown.And sounding more like a sci-fi magazine than a newspaper, The Washington Post reports that a Predator based in Djibouti “started
its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been
turned off and the fuel lines closed.”
To be sure, manned aircraft have
mechanical problems. But manned aircraft don’t start on their own; they don’t
fly renegade sorties into hostile territory; they don’t have to be chased down
and destroyed; and rather than steering themselves into friendly aircraft, they
do everything to avoid harming a friendly. In short, drones have real technological
limitations. These limitations, it seems, will only be amplified as a)
increasing numbers of non-pilots take the controls and b) each drone operator
is shouldered with an increasing number of platforms to operate. However,
that’s not stopping Washington from deploying more and more of these wonder
More Willing to Use
History is replete, as then-Major George
Patton observed in 1931, with “instances of military instruments, each in its
day heralded as…the key to victory.” He dismissed “those who now proclaim that
the airplane should be the sole means of waging future wars...This notion is
absurd...The airplane is here to stay. It is a great arm, but it has no more
replaced all others than did gunpowder...all arms are potent, none is
The same will be said of UCAVs. They
may be here to stay, but they won’t ensure victory. They won’t become the sole
means of warfare. And they certainly won’t make war less likely. In fact, given
that UCAVs remove American pilots from the dangers of war, they will make wars
easier to start. Drone warfare, after all, is not low-risk war, but no-risk war.
That lack of risk makes all the difference. As one F-15E pilot explains, “It’s
important to remember that a pilot, unlike a drone operator, is in the
battle-space. I can be shot down. My plane can have a mechanical failure. I can
crash and die or fall into enemy hands. A drone pilot simply doesn’t have to
think in those terms. My
overall feeling is that it must be different to make a decision to take a life
or destroy a target when your own life is at risk. When that element of the act
of war is removed, the sense of reality is removed.The magnitude of the
decision to take a life is entering virtual reality instead.”
That’s a worrisome development, for
citizens and policymakers alike. As Michael Ignatieff asked in 2000, years before
the drone war began, “If war becomes unreal to the citizens of modern
democracies, will they care enough to restrain and control the violence
exercised in their name…if they and their sons and daughters are spared the
hazards of combat?” That question is directly
linked to policymakers in the drone age. The risks policymakers take with UCAVs are
greater because the accountability is less than with manned aircraft. After
all, the loss of a drone is the loss of nothing more than metal. “More willing
to lose is more willing to use,” as Daniel Haulman of the Air Force Historical
Research Agency puts it.Yet as America’s deepening involvement in Yemen underscores, drones may
actually make boots-on-the-ground intervention more likely. To identify new targets and authenticate existing targets
for the drone war, Washington has quietly sent U.S. troops into Yemen. According
tounnamed military officials, the contingent of American troops is growing.As the troops identify targets, they become targets. Thus, far from preventing
more direct and more risky forms of military engagement, drones are encouraging
such engagement—even as many of their operators paradoxically carry out their
lethal missions from the safety of bases in Nevada or New Mexico.
Make no mistake: this is a good
thing for the airmen kept out of harm’s way. But it may be a bad thing for our
Because UCAVs remove humans from the
battle-space, they remove the unique characteristics humans bring to the
battle-space: deliberation, doubt, fear, gut instinct, judgment. We need humans
in the battle-space, in harm’s way, not just because humans make better
judgments than machines—judgment is a very human action, after all—but because
having humans in the battle-space, in harm’s way, can help the
commander-in-chief make better judgments about when, where and whether to wage
war. The temptation to gain all the benefits of kinetic military operations
with none of the costs, consequences or risks may be too strong for the
Executive branch to resist. Even if
the Executive’s inclination toward war is not new—recall Madison’s letter to
Jefferson noting how “the Executive is the branch of power most
interested in war and most prone to it”—the prospect of risk-free war afforded by pilotless planes is.
This has been decades in the making,
of course. From World War II to Desert Storm to the war on terror, the United
States has grown adept at striking its enemies with increasing levels of
precision and decreasing levels of risk to those pulling the trigger. But UCAVs
erase the risk. And without it, there is one less check on the
commander-in-chief’s war-making power. President Obama, for instance, has
employed drones in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Iran in ways that he has
not—and arguably would not—employ manned aircraft. That’s because the political
cost at home—and diplomatic fallout abroad—is high when a commander-in-chief
loses a pilot, but negligible when a commander-in-chief loses a pilotless
drone. Just compare the non-reaction to the loss of drones in Djibouti, Iran
and the Seychelles under the Obama administration with the bona fide crises
other presidents faced when U.S. pilots were shot down over or near enemy
territory: President Dwight Eisenhower weathered international humiliation
after the Soviets brought down Francis Powers’ U-2. President John Kennedy was
pressed to go to war when Rudolf Anderson’s U-2 was shot down during the Cuban
Missile Crisis. President Bill Clinton had to deal with a hostage crisis abroad
and a political crisis at home when Michael Durant’s UH-60 Blackhawk was shot
down in Mogadishu, and he was forced to mount a massive rescue operation into
hostile territory when Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down in Bosnia. In sum, the
absence or presence of U.S. personnel in a military operation dramatically changes
the calculus of war.
Not only do UCAVs lower the
threshold for going to war; they also may make it easier to keep wars going, as
Paul Miller, a former National Security Council official, observes. Noting that
“endless war is unacceptable and dangerous,” Miller
argues that the institution of the presidency needs to answer an important
question: “When, and under what conditions, will the U.S. government stop using drones to bomb suspected terrorists around the world?”
Thanks to drones, as Miller’s question
suggests, “endless war” is quite possible. In this regard, it’s worth noting
that the drone war is an outgrowth of Washington’s post-9/11 campaign against
terrorist organizations and regimes—a campaign authorized by the Use of Force Resolution
of September 18, 2001. That measure directed the president “to use all
necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons
he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks
that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons,
in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the
United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
That final clause referring to
“future acts of international terrorism” creates a loophole larger than a Reaper
ground-attack drone—with a wingspan of some 66 feet—a loophole that
should be tightened through legislation focusing on threats beyond Afghanistan.
After all, it would be a stretch to say that the September 18 measure authorized—11-plus
years later—an autopilot war against targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and
beyond. Those targets may indeed be enemies of, and threats to, the United
States. But few of the drone war’s intended targets today—not to mention the
unfortunates simply in the wrong place at the wrong time—“planned, authorized,
committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
Underscoring this point, The Washington
Post recently reported that a growing number of drone strikes in Yemen have
targeted “lower-level figures who are suspectedof having links to terrorism operatives but are seen mainly as leaders of
factions focused on gaining territory in Yemen’s internal struggle.” (Emphasis added.)
Yet the drone war goes on, largely because
there are no Americans in harm’s way—at least not directly.
Developing a Complex
That brings us back to defining the
battle-space. If we argue that drone pilots are not in the battle-space, which
seems reasonable given that most of them are 7,500 miles away from the enemy,
it invites friend and foe alike to draw an unsettling conclusion about American
power. An example from history may be helpful.
Amid the Allied bombing raids on
Germany at the end of World War II, British physicist Patrick Blackett worried
that London and Washington had developed a “Jupiter Complex,” which historian Paul
Johnson describes as “the notion of the Allies as righteous gods, raining
retributive thunderbolts on their wicked enemies.” The Allies concluded, as Johnson
explains, that strategic bombing “was the best way to make the maximum use of
their vast economic resources, while suffering the minimum manpower losses.”
UCAVs take the logic of the Jupiter
Complex to its ultimate conclusion: maximum use of economic and technological resources
with zero manpower losses and zero risks—all buffered by the virtual-reality
nature of the delivery system. Just consider TheNew
York Times depiction of the inner workings of the drone war, which
describes President Obama as “at the helm of a top-secret ‘nominations’ process
to designate terrorists for kill or capture,” authorizing every strike in Yemen and Somalia and “the
more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan,” often deciding “personally whether
to go ahead” with a drone strike, and acceding to a method for tallying
civilian casualties that “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike
zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving
The results are not for the squeamish: The Brookings Institution estimates
that, along with the 2,700-plus militants killed by drones in Pakistan, some 400
non-militants may have been killed. The use of drones to cripple al-Awlaki’s Yemeni branch of al Qaeda
killed dozens of people, many of them apparently not affiliated with al Qaeda,
including a 16-year-old relative of al-Awlaki born in Denver. (This incident raises due-process questions, just as the proliferation of
drones deployed domestically raises Fourth Amendment concerns. However, these
important subjects are best addressed in another essay.)
short, it seems Washington has been seduced by the Jupiter Complex. Being
seen in such a light—as detached and remote in every sense of the word,
especially in waging war—should give Americans pause.“Reliance on drone strikes allows our opponents to cast our country
as a distant, high-tech, amoral purveyor of death,” argues Kurt Volker, former
U.S. ambassador to NATO. “It builds resentment, facilitates terrorist
recruitment and alienates those we should seek to inspire.”Indeed, what looks like a successful counterterrorism campaign to Americans,
looks very different to international observers. “In 17 of
20 countries,” a recent Pew survey found, “more than half disapprove of U.S.
drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as
Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”Moreover, a UN official recently announced plans
to create “an investigation unit” within the Human Rights Council to “inquire
into individual drone attacks…in which it has been alleged that civilian
casualties have been inflicted.”
This is not to suggest that either
side of the drone debate has a monopoly on the moral high ground. Both have
honorable motives: UCAV advocates want to employ drone technologies to limit
U.S. casualties, while UCAV opponents are concerned that these same
technologies could make war too easy to wage. This underscores that there’s no
simple solution to the drone dilemma. Converting to a fully unmanned air force
would be dangerous. Putting the UCAV genie back in the bottle, on the other
hand, would be difficult, perhaps impossible.
There are those who argue that it’s
a false dichotomy to say that policymakers must choose between UCAVs and manned
aircraft. To be sure, UCAVs could serve as a complement to manned aircraft
rather than a replacement, with pilots in the battle-space wielding UCAVs to
augment their capabilities. But that doesn’t appear to be where we’re headed.
Consider Adm. Mullen’s comments about the sunset of manned combat aircraft, the
manned-versus-unmanned acquisition trajectories, the remote-control
wars in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, and President Obama’s reliance on
UCAVs. Earlier this year,
for instance, when France asked for help in its counterassault against
jihadists in Mali, Washington offered drones.The next president will likely follow
and build upon the UCAV precedents set during the Obama administration, just as
the Obama administration has with the UCAV precedents set during the
Bush administration. Recall that the first shot
in the drone war was fired some 11 years ago, in Yemen, when a CIA Predator
drone retrofitted with Hellfire missiles targeted and killed one of the planners of the USS Cole attack.
Given their record and their growing
capabilities, it seems unlikely that UCAVs will ever be renounced entirely. But
perhaps the use of drones for lethal purposes can by curtailed or at least
contained. It pays to recall that the United States has circumscribed its own
military power in the past by drawing the line at certain technologies: The
U.S. halted development of the neutron bomb in the 1970s and dismantled its
neutron arsenal in the 2000s; agreed to forswear chemical
weapons; and renounced biological warfare “for the sake of all mankind.”
That brings us back to The New York Times’
portrait of the drone war. Washington must be mindful that the world is
watching. This is not an argument in defense of international watchdogs
tying America down. The UN secretariat may refuse to recognize America’s
special role, but by turning to Washington whenever civil war breaks out, or
nuclear weapons sprout up, or sea lanes are threatened, or natural disasters
wreak havoc, or genocide is let loose, it is tacitly conceding that the United
States is, well, special. Washington has every right to kill those who are
trying to kill Americans. However, the brewing international
backlash against the drone war reminds us that means and methods matter as much
If these geo-political consequences
of remote-control war don’t get our attention, then the looming geo-strategic
consequences should. If we make the argument that UCAV pilots are in the
battle-space, then we are effectively saying that the battle-space is the
entire earth. If that’s the case, the unintended consequences could be dramatic.
First, if the battle-space is the entire
earth, the enemy would seem to have the right to wage war on those places where
UCAV operators are based. That’s a sobering thought, one that few policymakers
Second, power-projecting nations are
following America’s lead and developing their own drones to target their
distant enemies by remote. Some 75 countries have drone programs underway.Many of these nations are less discriminating in employing military force than
the United States—and less skillful. Indeed,
drones may usher in a new age of accidental wars. If the best drones deployed
by the best military crash more than any other aircraft in America’s fleet,
imagine the accident rate for mediocre drones deployed by mediocre militaries.
And then imagine the international incidents this could trigger between, say,
India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, Russia and the Baltics or Poland or
Georgia, China and any number of its wary neighbors.
China has at least a dozen drones on
the drawing board or in production, and has announced plans to dot its
coastline with 11 drone bases in the next two years.The Pentagon’s recent reports on
Chinese military power detail “acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs
and UCAVs…for long-range reconnaissance and strike”; development of UCAVs to
enable “a greater capacity for military preemption”; and interest in
“converting retired fighter aircraft into unmanned combat aerial vehicles.”At a 2011 air show, Beijing showcased one of its
newest drones by playing a video demonstrating a pilotless plane tracking a
U.S. aircraft carrier near Taiwan and relaying targeting information.
Equally worrisome, the proliferation
of drones could enable non-power-projecting nations—and non-nations, for that
matter—to join the ranks of power-projecting nations. Drones are a cheap alternative
to long-range, long endurance warplanes. Yet despite their
low cost, drones can pack a punch. And owing to their size and range, they can
conceal their home address far more effectively than the typical, non-stealthy
manned warplane. Recall that the
possibility of surprise attack by drones was cited to justify the war against
Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Of course, cutting-edge UCAVs have
not fallen into un-deterrable hands. But if history is any guide, they will.
Such is the nature of proliferation. Even if the
spread of UCAV technology doesn’t harm the United States in a direct way, it
seems unlikely that opposing swarms of semiautonomous, pilotless warplanes roaming
about the earth, striking at will, veering off course, crashing here and there,
and sometimes simply failing to respond to their remote-control pilots will do
much to promote a liberal global order.
would be ironic if the promise of risk-free war presented by drones spawned a new era of danger for
the United States and its allies.
U.S. Air Force, United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047, May 18, 2009, p15.
 The Economist, “Flight of the drones,” October 8,
 New York Times, “Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles,” October 21, 2011, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/u/unmanned_aerial_vehicles/index.html.
 Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman, “Almost 1 In 3
U.S. Warplanes Is a Robot,” Wired Danger Room,
 Karen DeYoung, “Secrecy defines Obama’s drone war,”
The Washington Post, December 19, 2011; Mark Mazzetti, “The Drone Zone,” The
New York Times, July 6, 2012.
 Air Force Magazine, “Last Manned Aircraft?” May 18,
 See Karlyn Bowman, “America and the War On
Terrorism,” AEI STUDIES IN PUBLIC OPINION, November 18, 2005,
http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.22819/pub_detail.asp; see also CNN/USA
Today polls, http://www.usatoday.com/news/polls/2005-11-15-iraq-poll.htm.
 Simon Serfaty, "The United States, the European
Union and NATO after the Cold War and Beyond Iraq," CSIS Report, June 15,
 Thomas Harding, “Col. Gaddafi killed: convoy bombed
by drone flown by pilot in Las Vegas,” The London Telegraph, October 20, 2011.
 Ian Livingston and Michael O’Hanlon, The Pakistan
Index, December 29, 2011, pp.6-8.
 Ian Livingston and Michael O’Hanlon, The Afghanistan
Index, December 13, 2012, p.32.
 The New York Times, “A leaner Pentagon,” January 5,
 Pentagon briefing, January 5, 2012,
U.S. Air Force, United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047, May 18, 2009, p.15.
 The Economist, October 8, 2011.
 Spencer Ackerman, "Army Wants Tiny Suicidal
Drone to Kill From 6 Miles Away," Wired Danger Room, September 10, 2012,
U.S. Air Force, United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047, May 18, 2009, p.39.
 Andrea Shalal-Esa and Tim Hepher, “Future drone
pilots may fly four warplanes at once,” Reuters, December 24, 2011.
 Max Boot, War Made New, Penguin 2006, pp.440-441;
Shalal-Esa and Hepher.
 David Axe, “Pentagon looks to double its unmanned air
force,” Wired.com, May 31, 2011.
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