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Surprising Science

U.S. Setting Dangerous Drone Precedent

For the moment, the U.S. has cornered the market on drone warfare. But this won't last forever. What will conflict look like when warring countries fight each other with drones? 

What’s the Latest Development?


The U.S. has used unmanned military aircraft, i.e. drones, to fight on the front lines in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. But what will happen when its adversaries develop the technology themselves? The Bush administration initiated an ambitious and potentially dangerous legal precedent with its use of drones, deploying them over other nations’ borders to kill perceived enemies, even American citizens as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki. To date, President Obama has been even more eager to use them. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Outside the Afghanistan theater, where British drones are active, only Israel has used unmanned vehicles to attack perceived threats. But challenges “could be faced along any number of restive borders (in Kashmir, or in northern Mexico) or against breakaway elements within a country (the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province, in China, perhaps, or in Chechnya).” According to Dennis M. Gormley, a senior research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, “The problem is that we’re creating an international norm.” 


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