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Drones: The New American Intervention

The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Whether for spying or unmanned airstrikes, the technology is being tested aggressively.

What’s the Latest Development?

Because deployment of unmanned military drones does not directly cost American lives, they have become a weapon of choice in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen. The military wants to expand production. “The Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year, and by 2030 envisions ever more stuff of science fiction: ‘spy flies’ equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies, nuclear weapons or victims in rubble.” Drones have played instrumental roles in missions over Pakistan targeting anti-American terrorist cells. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The pendulum of American foreign policy is swinging back. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates leaves his post, he has been vocally critical of costly wars of choice such as Iraq. In Libya, President Obama refused unilateral intervention. The development of drone technology parallels these events, but will it limit American intervention abroad or make killing more sanguine? “Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts.”


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