Drones turning favourite future warfare arsenal

| | in Oped
Drones turning favourite future warfare arsenal

The emergence of drones can be regarded as a paradigm shift in the modern warfare. They have unleashed a new pattern of horror on the already devastating battles, particularly between nations and non-state actors. The continued support of power, status and money have emboldened America — which first started the extensive use of drones for targeted killings after terrorism became a global thing — to introduce them as one of the most sophisticated and lethal weapons of the 21st century.

Combined with precision weapons mounted on drones, the drone technology can be used for controlling territories or even human population and will be a big game changer in coming years. Hence, it is worth looking at drones: How it can change the futuristic wars? And of course, how drones could be regarded as an all new threat to civilians?

Earlier, used in the Balkans for surveillance, drones’ root goes to the post-Taliban Afghanistan. It was here in this war-torn country that America orchestrated a completely new war strategy to kill two birds with one stone: to crush dreaded al Qaeda terrorists without collateral damage and to retain its superiority in the troubled greater West Asian region.

In fact, America had found the new killing machine, drones, to wipe out Osama bin Laden, who was then taking shelter in Afghanistan’s Kandahar after the USSR walked out of the strife-torn country. But then Washington was in two minds about using drones to kill Osama as it involved collateral damage, including civilians’ death.

However, the 9/11 terror attacks at the heart of the US changed American’s strategies, forcing it to use any means to smoke out terrorists hiding in any parts of the world.

The American Administration and its security agencies took the help of drones to eliminate Islamic terrorists not only in Afghanistan but also in many other parts of the world.

After September 2001, the US responded heavily, by targeting both the al Qaeda and its protector, the Taliban regime, in Afghanistan. In fact, America’s armed drone strike came that autumn to kill the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. However, this time there was no cry for legality of using such lethal weapons.

Since then America has been using drones in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and in Pakistan to kill terrorists and non-state actors belonging to al Qaeda, ISIS and what it calls as ‘associated forces’. Former director of the CIA Michale Hayden even said that using drones have become “part of the American way of war”.

So far, drones have sparked debates across the world in public sphere, power corridors, and of course among the war strategists. The Left-leaning intellectuals have accused the US of using drones as a planned attempt to reassert its hegemonic role around the globe. Scholars like Mathew Burrows are concerned not only of the legal ramifications of domestic drones used by Government organisations, but the broad spectrum Americans could experience (2013). To him the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) flying high in the sky can have a chilling effect on democracy that most Americans would consider intolerable.

Today, with an all powerful globalisation, all aspects of our daily lives are seriously disturbed, interrupted and rather our privacy aspect has been compromised to a great extent. It is “no drone era” that can particularly rob the freedom from the American natives, but it is the greatness and super accessibility of the information and communication technologies that are indeed giving us enough liberty on one side and taking away much more on the other hand.

However, many of the common criticism against drones do not hold good or rather failed to offer any serious scrutiny, while offering a comparison between already available war weapons and the UAVs for military purposes. The most common anti-drone argument says that “drones kill more innocent civilians than enemies”. It is a fact and the international community has witnessed the devastating impact of these UAVs over innocent people across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, etc.

If we draw a comparison between deaths occurred because of drone attacks and other weapons of war, then it can clearly be concluded that the rate of casualties of the former is not higher than the later. To be fair, the common means of warfare cause more deaths than drones.

Unlike other existing advanced technological war weapons, drones provide greater precision while targeting an enemy. Using the UAVs is a strong force multiplier for sure.

For instance, an army helicopter needs at least two officials: One to fly it and the next person to manage the entire system. Another advantage of drones is that as it is comparatively fuel efficient, it can concentrate more on targets than any manned aircraft. Therefore, drones actually do ‘persistent surveillance’ as its best known qualities so far.

It makes them easier to spend hours, days and possibly months while monitoring a potential target. Drones just not only swoop, but also fire missiles and go off faster than manned vehicles. Finally, they are “equipped with imaging technologies that enable operators, who may be thousands of miles away, to see details as fine as individual faces”.

Besides, modern drone technologies allow their operators to distinguish between civilians and combatants far more effectively than most other weapon systems.

However, if this is the argument then the moot question is why US drones are killing innocent people in many countries, particularly in Afghanistan?

For commoners, such incidents could well be regarded as either sheer carelessness or may be an intentional game plan to cause a fear psychosis in general. But, in any case, either of them will bring home a complete negative perspective of America’s long-term foreign and Defence policies in the affected areas.

As we witness more and more sophisticated technologies entering into the war kitty, the debates are fast coming up about the extensive use and abuse of the UAVs by the US. Across the US, at least 36 States have already passed legislations in regard to the drones by 2014. “While much of the legislations introduced seeks to solve perceived privacy issues, some of the legislations seeks to require a warrant before drones are used, even in public places where privacy expectations are diminished” (American Civil Liberties Union, November 7, 2013).

Although there are serious concerns about the privacy implications, and targeting of persons by armed domestic drones, such concerns are largely unfounded so far. The protection systems are already in place in regard to these issues which are clearly explained in the American Constitution. It is then fine when the US uses drones at home as its citizens have the respective laws in hand to fight the Government in case any misuse happens.

Again what is the guarantee that the law enforcement agencies of the US would not violate such provisions in the garb of protecting national interests?

As such drones do not pose much more threat to humanity, it is not going to overturn the very strategy of war. Finally, drones are not presenting a whole lot of challenges to the Governments, civilians and to the combatants in the warring nations. But the way America is using these weapons portends grave consequences as well as their strategic efficacy.

Besides, as of today, the major targets of US drones are none other than the greater parts of the West Asia, wherein the country has been in command for long, though there have been some challenges to the superpower’s authority at times.

Indeed, this is sending a wrong message to some of the country’s leadership and their civilians as they are now at the centre of America’s global war on terrorism. What worries many is that the so-called legal narratives which are being employed to justify the use of US drone attacks jeopardise the core tenets of international law itself.

At last, what we all could gather is that advanced technologies are potentially helping the constitutional authorities to intrude more and more into the lives of private citizens. Drones are no exception to this. But then, with the coming of drones, all-powerful Governments are trying to overcome their regular constraints by employing such ultra-modern technologies.

Therefore, the UAVs in the form of drones must be treated very carefully and with skepticism by the Americans, their lawmakers and the world at large. Any nation would be encouraged to engage in more and more wars if they can use drones which will cost them lesser human resource.

There has been a great deal of debate concerning the current use of drones by the US as part of its global war on terrorism. Will the use of drones minimise or so to say eliminate the global jehadists entirely from the world?

It is highly unlikely and drones are just another stage of technological advancement of weapons that will simply be acquired by rich nations such as America to terrorise the world. Beyond drones, America should evolve its war strategies so as to minimise the loss of the lives of common people while targeting the terrorists and other combatants.

(The writer is an expert on international affairs)

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