Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do Drones Undermine Democracy?

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?



  1. This article was interesting. I liked the fact that he brought up how we have not declared war since the 40's because he was making the point that we are loosing the traditional way of waging war and he thinks technology has something to do with that.
    He is being the neighborhood watchdog because he feels like it is important that the citizens know what is going on with their government. He feels like the other branches are loosing power because of the loopholes technology has when it comes to the executive branches' rights in the Constitution. It's good because a lot of people (including myself) did not know this.

  2. I agree with the writer who suggests there is a problem because a loophole is created because of unmanned drones. However, this has been a problem over the latter half of the 20th century continuing into today.

    In order to get around Congress' approval president have been calling war other names, such as an operation. This also allows the President to remain politically unscathed because there is noloss of human life.

    I think Congress should be more wary of the President's actions and fight to keep power so that unfavorable precedents are not set further, which is still continuing today.

  3. I think Singer is a watchdog because he wants the public to see that the "war on terror",and the drones are not actually war at all and instead part of the loopholes in the government. Like he said, Congress hasn't declared war since 1942, and I know that a lot of Americans have a misconception about the current fightings that have been happening since.

    I felt like the article was a bit confusing at times because I got caught up with too many terms and examples. One situation could have been enough with the detail and he could have simply listed other occurrences. Part of that though is that I'm not really interested in military tactics so it was sometimes like a history lesson for me.