As I browsed through various websites seeking a topic for this post, I found myself coming back to an editorial published in the New York Times by Peter Singer’s editorial on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Singer cites the spike of both military and CIA UAV usage as a potential threat to democracy because UAV missions are carried out even though congress has not declared war.
I found the subject of Singer’s piece to be intriguing, the rising popularity and usage of UAVs will drastically change the way future wars will be fought. Singer is wise to consider the effects that will hold, but I don’t feel his argument is sound.
First off, the word “drone” is incorrect. A drone is an unmanned aircraft that flies a preprogrammed, unchangeable flight path but the UAVs (which Singer seems to be referring to) are unmanned aircrafts flown by pilots following a mission, but not a preprogrammed path. Singer is very loose with his terminology; associating the term "robot" with UAVs insinuates that the aircraft has a mind of its own (much like Arnold in The Terminator).
Just the opposite is true, there is much more human element in the UAV process than any other weapon. My father flies a UAV for the Air Force and will soon be deploying to Afghanistan to operate the take-off and landing of the aircraft. He often addresses the video feed in his cockpit, saying that the feed is often watched and supervised by dozens of other people. He often says, “ We fly this thing like the White House Situation Room is watching, because they just might be.”
Even though Singer may have been off base on some of his conclusions, he did bring to light some interesting facts that will affect the way America addresses political conflict. There is not one major, manned combat aircraft in development today. The idea of Maverick carrying out his gutsy fly by is fading; many say the last Air Force pilot has already been born. Politicians prefer UAVs because there will never be a cargo planeload of body bags arriving at Dover AFB, Delaware that they will have to explain away to their constituency.
The advantages of UAVs are simply two-fold: a pilot or aircrew are not at risk, and the mission can be carried out in a much more inexpensive manner than one operated by a manned aircraft.
Singer said himself congress has not officially declared war since the 1940s and it’s not like covert military missions are a new occurrence. Does Singer present a relevant argument, or does he come close to abusing a news peg? Singer does a good job at being a watchdog-- his mind is with the citizens. Why?