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The US Now Faces the Same Dilemma Over Drones As It Did Over Nuclear Weapons

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the what-did-we-learn dept.

The Military 211

Lasrick writes "Hugh Gusterson examines the crossroads at which the U.S. finds itself on the use of drones, and the long-term consequences of choices made now, by looking at the history of choices the U.S. made in the 1940s regarding nuclear weapons. Thoughtful read. Quoting: 'Having seen what drones are capable of, political leaders can choose to place clear limits, domestically and internationally, on how they can be used. Or, telling the American people that drones will make them safer or that "you can’t stop technology," they can allow free rein to those military inventors, national security bureaucrats and industry entrepreneurs eager to develop drone technology as aggressively as possible. Such people are impatient to press ahead with new unmanned aerial vehicles, including smart drones and mini-drones, to sell both to the US military for use overseas and to law-enforcement bodies within the United States. If drone development continues unchecked, what can we expect? First, as with nuclear weapons, proliferation. At the moment the United States, Britain, and Israel are the only countries to have used weaponized drones. But many countries, including Russia and China, have been watching carefully as Washington has experimented with counterinsurgency by drone, and are considering how they might use this relatively cheap technology for their own purposes. If they decide to use their own drones outside the boundaries of international law against people they brand “terrorists,” the United States will hardly be in a position to condemn them or counsel restraint.'"

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211 comments

Not the same... (5, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about 8 months ago | (#45496071)

Nuclear weapons take a lot of processing, be it getting the raw materials (only available from a few spots), refining it (very tough), refining it further to be able to be used (even more tough), and getting it working.

You can buy a "drone" for $100 from woot.com, and unlike nukes where no matter how better technology gets, the stuff needed stays rare, AIs will always improve, and the hardware needed is very common.

Re:Not the same... (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#45496157)

Well, there is one other small difference:

As expensive and technically tough as it is to make a nuclear weapon (and its delivery system!), even a small nuke can do a hell of a lot more damage in one go than even 1,000 drones can accomplish. Quake analogy? multiple blasters versus a given BFG (or rather, one very amped-up BFG).

There is also the fact that drones are still subject to interference, and that there is only so much room in the sky to hold a sufficient number of drones (to do the same damage as a nuke) on a practical level.

I honestly get that there is a huge potential for problems stemming from the use of drones-as-weapons, but unlike a 'fire-and-forget' ICBM/SRBM/SLBM*? The drone still has to call home, most have to get their instructions and updates from somewhere, a higher degree of accuracy is required, and as a practical matter they need sufficient safeguards built in to avoid having it turn around and attack its owner(s).

* note that I'm not even counting a missile (or any type) with a MIRV warhead.

Re:Not the same... (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 8 months ago | (#45496295)

Agreed. The big reason why nukes are bad is that there really is no way to use them without harming civilians. Even the smallest nuclear weapon, suitable for destroying just an enemy base, is still very likely to produce fallout that will spread to civilian populations.

Drones are not fully-automated killing machines. They aren't just thrown in the sky to exterminate an area. They're still piloted by humans from a distance. Yes, there are still civilian casualties, but that's not because the weapon of choice is remote-controlled.

Re:Not the same... (0)

Zenin (266666) | about 8 months ago | (#45496839)

Drones are not fully-automated killing machines. They aren't just thrown in the sky to exterminate an area. They're still piloted by humans from a distance.

Your perception of drone technology is at least a decade out of date. Hobby level R/C planes were doing fully-automated flights at least a decade ago (which means they weren't really R/C of course).

Re:Not the same... (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 8 months ago | (#45497063)

Autopilots are old as fuck, but that was not so much the question.

Re:Not the same... (3, Informative)

Culture20 (968837) | about 8 months ago | (#45497089)

But they weren't killing machines. Reaper Drones, while having many autonomous functions, can't pull their own triggers.

Re:Not the same... (2)

Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) | about 8 months ago | (#45497301)

yet...

Re:Not the same... (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about 8 months ago | (#45497029)

"even a small nuke can do a hell of a lot more damage in one go than even 1,000 drones can accomplish"

No.

Never was, never is, and never will be true, ever. There are a lot of potential variables in how a drone can be weaponized that never guarantee that drones can't be equipped with, say, nuclear weapons for example.

Re:Not the same... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497285)

Seeing how you can get a camera that does facial recognition for $100, I don't think a fully automated drone that can kill a specific person is a reach.

Re:Not the same... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45497375)

Let's step it up a little more. In addition to nuclear-armed and autonomous drones as previous repliers noted, we can have self-reproduction. Throw in a bunch of rad and EMP hardened, self-reproducing, tunneling, autonomous drones into an area and you might not be able to get them out even with repeated application of large nuclear weapons.

I'm sure at some point, evolution will kick in so that the drones are more interested in reproduction than in messing with the humans, but that could take a long time. In the meantime, you're looking at a scenario where a large bunch of burrowing critters just don't like you and are almost impossible to get rid of. I've seen a few monster flicks like that. It's area denial that could be on the order of millions of years.

Re:Not the same... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496213)

MAD was probably a lot easier to deal with, only a few power players with a lot to lose, Drones on the other hand...

I mean realistically this is where missile guidance was going eventually, extreme precision with minimal investment. The threat is now focused on specific individuals rather than cities and nations.

A bad time to live if you are a name on a list

may ways they are not the same (4, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 8 months ago | (#45496277)

I've had enough of the 'ZOMG drones!!!11!!' from all corners...it's facile and ignorant...

Drones are just a different delivery system for the same armament...usually a hellfire missile. Nothing a 'drone' does can't be done by a piloted craft...or a cruise missile...or a piloted craft converted to a drone [wired.com]

Nuclear weapons **could be launched from a drone**

See how this is comparing apples and baseballs?

Let's all agree to stop the madness! 'drones' are remote-piloted versions of the human piloted vehicles....it's the **armaments** and **who we are shooting at and why** that matter...not the delivery system of the armament!!!

Re:may ways they are not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496807)

I disagree. With nukes you will pretty much know who sent it. With drones, you could have a strike in your country and not know who sent the drone, it may even take off within your own country. Now feel free to ignore this, but imagine someone like Harry Reid being hit by a hellfire from one of those that is untraceable.

Its only a matter of time before others use them against the US, and while it is expensive/difficult to do so with a nuke, it is entirely possible with a drone. The best part is once it is done, they can just blame the US government for targeting its own citizens and no one will believe their denial.

Its the fact that you can do it without causing every other country to instantly turn on you and also frame someone else for it that is the problem.

Re:may ways they are not the same (2)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#45496913)

Now feel free to ignore this, but imagine someone like Harry Reid being hit by a hellfire from one of those that is untraceable.

Where do we send the thank you card? ;)

Its only a matter of time before others use them against the US

Not likely. Any reasonably developed country with a decent intelligence apparatus would be able to trace the drone back to its source. Conventional rules of conduct still apply when the attack isn't anonymous.

armament vs vehicle (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 8 months ago | (#45497423)

I disagree. With nukes you will pretty much know who sent it. With drones, you could have a strike in your country and not know who sent the drone, it may even take off within your own country

no, you don't disagree, you don't understand...your "with X you know 1 but with Y you only know 2" is a **false dichotomy**

X and Y are absolutely not equal or congruent...

A 'nuke' could be delivered ON A DRONE (an ICBM is essentially a 'suicide drone') or PILOTED CRAFT

also, you are wrong that 'with nukes you know who sent it'...you know what country an ICBM is launched from, or from what location in the ocean...but that doesn't mean the country approved its launch...

'nukes' are not at all comparable to drones

Re:may ways they are not the same (4, Insightful)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 8 months ago | (#45496833)

I agree, but there's a wrinkle you didn't mention.

The one thing you can do with drones you can't do with an F-16 is have the damn thing film a target for hours. Since an F-16 has a human pilot, who can't sit in that tiny-little cockpit for 12 hours straight, it's missions have to be kept short. Moreover since F-16 pilots are very valuable assets the plane has to be designed so that the pilot has a very good chance of getting home. That means it has to be able to run away real fast, it needs backup systems if something goes wrong, it needs all kinds of weapons to deal with threats, etc. There's a reason new F-16s cost $40-50 million and the latest generation combat aircraft is well past $100 million. You don't want those things hanging around a warzone shooting video 24/7 for a week. They might notice, and start taking pot-shots, and eventually they'll figure out how to bring it down.

Which means if you're fighting with conventional aircraft you have real motive to blow everything to smithereens. It wastes lots of your money (ammo ain't free), but it saves even more expensive planes and pilots.

OTOH a $10 million drone is expendable. It can hang out filming some suspected enemy's house all day. Literally. They have an endurance in the 30-hour range. Your drone jockeys do 80-hour shifts drinking Dew and eating Cheeto's. If you trade off drones you can easily have a house under observation for weeks. During that time you can gather a lot of data on whose in the House, when they're in the House (does the little kid always leave to play soccer in the mid-afternoon, or does he sometimes stay home?), etc. You burn a lot of AvGas, but in the mean-time you gain a lot of info. Info that lets you do things like wait until said little kid is out of the house to level it.

Which is why the hated drone war has only produced a few thousand casualties, less then a thousand a year, whereas a non-drone campaign would produce 10,000 a year.

satellite or other craft or combination thereof (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 8 months ago | (#45497433)

have the damn thing film a target for hours

as if we do that, ever...

our 'total battlefield awareness' means we use multiple data feeds integrated into a 3D battlefield rendering, with all assests renedered in real time as best as possible...

first, we use satellites for what you describe...or high altitude aircraft networked with the battlefield assests...

your counterpoint demonstrates alot of cooll technical knowledge but it doesn't have anything to do with my comment

Re:Not the same... (5, Insightful)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45496283)

Maybe, but it's not the point.

The main difference is that only 2 nukes were ever used to kill people, and then the world decided that doing that again would have to be an absolute last resort.
Drones, on the other hand, are dreamt as a clean way to "do business", and highly likely to get used more and by everybody.

Re:Not the same... (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 8 months ago | (#45496521)

The main difference is that only 2 nukes were ever used to kill people, and then the world decided that doing that again would have to be an absolute last resort.

I'm not sure "the world" made that decision. I think it is more like the people who had them decided it was a last resort, and decided that it would be good to try to keep them from people who haven't necessarily come to the same conclusion.

Re:Not the same... (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45496599)

Once people got past the US-imposed secrecy on the side-effects, most of the people realized that nobody would want to take responsibility for launching another, unless it was their last resort.

In the case of a few rare extremists, the definition of "last resort" is just a bit different from the survival (or MAD) that we picture. It's not about their physical survival but their standing in $afterlife.

Re:Not the same... (1)

smaddox (928261) | about 8 months ago | (#45497397)

Yeah, luckily the Norse religion died out ages ago, or else we'd have everyone launching nukes, trying to secure their place in Valhalla.

Re:Not the same... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#45496791)

Drones, on the other hand, are dreamt as a clean way to "do business", and highly likely to get used more and by everybody.

I don't think that many think of it as "clean", so much as they may think of it as "cheap". Instead of strapping a buttload of explosives to one's chest, you strap them to a remote-controlled device, and...

Re:Not the same... (2)

khasim (1285) | about 8 months ago | (#45496297)

About the only way they are the same is the same way every new military technology is the same.

Should we incorporate it into our military or should we attempt to outlaw its use in war?

And we don't seem to be in a hurry to stop using drones. That answers that question. And if we aren't going to stop using them then why would any other nation or group?

So not only is the premise of TFA flawed as you've pointed out, the only "similar" issue has already been answered.

Re:Not the same... (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 8 months ago | (#45496333)

The Tank, when it was invented, was thought to be such a terrifying weapon that it might end all war for fear of utter devistation. It was even named a tank to disguise why all this metal was being shipped... under the guise of building water tanks.

And potentially destabilizing... (4, Interesting)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 8 months ago | (#45496343)

Nuclear weapons had a stabilizing and centralizing tendency [orwell.ru] for governments, due to the great expense involved and the infrastructure needed to create them. As drone are developed and become more effective, governments like that in the U.S. may find their monopoly on force undermined.

I would have careful restrictions placed on drone use, equal or exceeding those already on other technologies (aircraft, etc.). A great risk remains that they'll be used to expand government power. But occasionally I wonder whether the drone might not represent revolutionary potential like the flintlock musket once did.

Re:And potentially destabilizing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496559)

Nuclear weapons had a stabilizing and centralizing tendency [orwell.ru] for governments

Ah, crap, there goes the 10th amendment.... (I kid!)

Re:And potentially destabilizing... (2)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 8 months ago | (#45496965)

How many years did flintlocks exist before there was a revolution? They were invented in 1610, after all.

As for drones potential to expand government power, how?

The government always had the power to kill people it didn't like. War, the death penalty, skirmishes technically not wars, etc. give it the legal power to kill people. Planes give the US Government the power to do this to anyone anywhere back in the days of the Doolittle Raid.

Drones increase the government's accuracy by a significant amount, but accuracy != power.

Restrictions on drones would be remarkably ineffective. A large enough RC Aircraft, with your army's sidearm, plus a cheap wireless camera is a drone. As long as governments are allowed to have airplanes, and electronical doohickeys like wireless cameras transmitting to computers, they will have drones.

You could restrict the government's ability to USE drones by creating some sort of international legal mechanism to decide who is a valid drone-target. Then the UN Drone Squad would kill them, or arrest them, or whatever. But for that to actually happen the US would have to agree to give it the right to execute Americans, and I doubt you'd be cool with that.

Re:And potentially destabilizing... (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 8 months ago | (#45497315)

How many years did flintlocks exist before there was a revolution? They were invented in 1610, after all.

Per the article cited, I actually had in mind the flintlock rifle, although Orwell is somewhat sloppy in his application of the term rifle. In any case, there is no lack of revolution in the 17th century, glorious and otherwise.

As for drones potential to expand government power, how?

Cheaper surveillance means many of the practical constraints our would-be lords and masters might face fall away. The same thing goes not just for surveillance, however. The cheapness and efficiency of small arms in our age makes the guerrilla's task much easier, as the U.S. occupation of the middle east shows. Yet the occupation is made easier by the use of drones.

The government always had the power to kill people it didn't like. War, the death penalty, skirmishes technically not wars, etc. give it the legal power to kill people. Planes give the US Government the power to do this to anyone anywhere back in the days of the Doolittle Raid.

This seems somewhat confused. Government does not always have the legal authority to kill anyone it likes. Sometimes, however, it pretends it does and new technology often allows a sort of sleight of hand. Thus we end up with our illegal involvement in wars in Libya and Yemen, with the government claiming that it isn't war since no human being is inside the drones and cruise missiles piloting them.

Restrictions on drones would be remarkably ineffective. [...] You could restrict the government's ability to USE drones by creating some sort of international legal mechanism to decide who is a valid drone-target.

The first statement claims that legal restrictions would be ineffective due to practical considerations. The second statement claims that legal restrictions would be effective because it forgets an important consideration of actual practice: i.e. there are a great many international laws that the U.S. habitually violate.

I do not think rules and restrictions on drones are likely to completely control there use, anymore than I think the 4th amendment protects U.S. citizens from illegal search and seizure in practice. But without such rules give at least some protection, if only the ability to skewer in the courts those who abuse and flout the rules after the fact.

But for that to actually happen the US would have to agree to give it the right to execute Americans, and I doubt you'd be cool with that.

No, I wouldn't. But, then, I'm not cool with my own government having such a power (a government in which I ostensibly have some say). I'm hardly about to ask for an unelected international body to have such power.

Foolish Earthlings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497177)

That board with a nail in it may have defeated us. But the humans won't stop there. They'll make bigger boards and bigger nails, and soon, they will make a board with a nail so big, it will destroy them all! - Kang

Re:Not the same... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497399)

Lol , at first glance I saw "drones" in the headline and I just thought of D.C. politicians, aids, flunkys and sundry suits.
Well,(I thought) we can bargain down the worlds heaviest duty ammo supply by trading out our Repubmocrats, F*CK, I'm all for it! Send Obama to China and Mail Hillary to Iran as a good faith token, in lieu of having to negotiate with the greasy bastards.

weapons grade idiocy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496073)

Really, this is weapons grade idiocy, truly epic.

http://globalgrind.com/2013/11/21/all-the-fake-democrats-please-take-a-seat-by-russell-simmons-blog/
millions of lives
"Yes, we initially wanted single payer, and we had to compromise back in 2009 for the Affordable Care Act. But, it is a damn good piece of legislation that has already saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives." Didja catch that peeps? "millions of lives" indeed.

First of all, I truly don't know who this idiot is, I assume he is some brain damaged rap artist or something like that.

"hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives"

This is what Democrats really think. Facts have no relevance or meaning in their lives. They *want* millions to be saved by Obama, and that's all that is really needed, the *fact* that they want it to happen is in itself an end. They want to do good, they say they are doing good, good, therefore must be happening.

In many ways it is the public school system, teachers unions and the media that is responsible for this. This nonsense cannot happen if we have an intelligent capable and moral citizenry; we clearly do not.

Oh and it get's better;

"I know where Republicans stand. They have voted 47 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so their stance is clear. If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t pay for your medical expenses, declare bankruptcy. If you have a pre-existing condition, they’ll send you a get well card when you’re on your death-bed."

All of these things are lies. Lies that cannot be substiantiated in any way - but that doesn't matter because no one will call him on this dishonesty - no one will hold this man, or any of them to account. Republicans are the go to bad guys, the Reapers of Firefly, the Indians of your cowboys-n-indians movies, the Jews of Nazi Gernamy, the Kulaks of the USSR. You have to have a class of bad-guys to blame and distract the masses with so they do not focus their attention on the truly evil ones, the directors of this madness. The Democrats.

If you haven't read We The Living by Ayn Rand I strongly suggest it - it's a short read and worth your time. Gwan people, think outside the box for once, don't take your dogma to be gospel, challenge the authorities for a change! Think for yourself. Note I am not suggesting you blindly follow my thinking, I am honestly telling you to do your own homework, make your own decisions, challenge your own assumptions! "Question Authority" used to be the anti-establishment meme of the truly hip and cool crowd was it not? What happened to you people?

Because I can tell you for a fucking fact, Obamacare hasn't saved no millions of lives, you can be dammned sure of that. So think people, use the brains god gave you and go and find out how many lives the lightbringer has in fact saved. You will be surprised.

What's more, and no doubt is completely beyond the capacity of this Russell Simmons to understand, as one can hardly believe this chap has any understanding of history or economics in any real sense, is this;

Statism, under it's various forms (socialism, communism, fascism, whatever) is a *real* cause of death in numbers that just leave you feeling ill. Don't take my word for it, go look it up if you need to - you shouldn't have to of course if you went to high school, but the information is out there. We don't need to talk about hard numbers as there are so many discussions of this all over the history books and various web sites and suchlike. If yoiu want numbers go find them.

No political ideology has killed more people than statism; period. You can talk all you want about religeon and the like, whatever. That isn't the point.

Statism (socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it) always evolves into a tryanny and most often a dictatorial one, where the killing of anyone and everyone who disagrees with the state is the order of the day. This is an un-deniable-fact.

Now I am not saying Obama is a Nazi and wants to kill Jews - or even that we are heading that direction, not in the slightest. I am not comparing todays Democrats to Nazis, do not get me wrong.

But to see something so completely and totally disconnected from reality as some hollywood idiot praising Obama the lightbringer for "legislation that has already saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives" based on nothing but a drug induced vision or dream without understanding the reality of what statism really is, is unforgivable. You all know what Santayana said of course? Do you? Actually I wonder about a lot of you and will leave this one up to the reader to research.

Statism has a track record, there are bodies stacked up and hidden away and this is fact not wishful thinking. FACT people, evidence, history, this is a *real* thing and means something more than HOPE CHANGE whateverthefuck.

And these idiots can't trouble themselves to learn even the slightest bit of actual history, to speak about things from a position of knoweledge and wisdom and they just start speaking of the Hope and Change that Obama the boy-king wants to bring, to heal the sick, to lower the level of the oceans, to feed and clothe the hungry; and all these things are nothing but wishful thinking, pipe dreams, drug addled daydreams, and to them this is the important thing, more real than reality. Obama! Hey Hey Hey, Barack Hussein Obama!

And yet the Barky Ofuckface got elected not once but TWICE.

We are fucked.

Re:weapons grade idiocy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496231)

We are fucked.

Idiots like you need their nuts cut off so they cannot breed.

We are fucked, all right, but not for the reasons your tiny little white trash brain
imagines.

It doesn't fucking matter who is president in the US, the real show goes on. Smart
people already know this, idiot jerkoffs like you run around flipping out because the evil
Bush or the evil Obama are president. GET THIS THROUGH YOUR THICK SKULL :
PRESIDENTS DO WHAT THEIR MASTERS TELL THEM TO DO. And lowlife fucktards
like you are along for the ride, just like most everyone else.

So go find a cock to suck and quit posting here.

Re:weapons grade idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496345)

"GET THIS THROUGH YOUR THICK SKULL :PRESIDENTS DO WHAT THEIR MASTERS TELL THEM TO DO."

"So go find a cock to suck and quit posting here."

Uh huh. So the whole reading comprehension thing is a bit of a challenge for you huh? So if you have an actual point to make other than to insult, call names and attack, go ahead and do so, but you can do so more politely because otherwise you are only worth ignoring, which I can do very easily.

And I do not post anywhere, or refrain from posting, on the instructions of one such as you.

Please try again.

Re:weapons grade idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497405)

DNFTT,P (do NOT feed the trolls, please)

Re:weapons grade idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497151)

I already corrected you once. It's Reavers! REAVERS!

Re:weapons grade idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497223)

I stand corrected, thanks!

This is crap (2, Insightful)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 8 months ago | (#45496079)

They're no different than any other airplanes. If other countries decide to use them outside their borders, and threaten U.S. interests, the U.S. can "counsel restraint" in it's usual manner: with bombs.

Re:This is crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496207)

They're no different than any other airplanes.

Sure they're different -- they're cheaper. And smaller.

People that work in the nuclear field -- heck, probably most physics PhD students -- have the knowledge to put together a nuclear weapon, but getting the resources and actually doing it is a massive undertaking, so this can be restricted.

Weaponizing a remote control helicopter is insanely cheap and simple in comparison.

Re:This is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496735)

Ever seen the payload of a predator? And how many warheads are in a nuke missile, independently maneuverable to a target. Now get the drift, weight, many drones, which one will your drone take out, is it the right one?, same with MAD. But now prove who launched the drone. Such fun...So allow drones to kill? You allow drones to weaponize, Or is some one going to step up and say "NO". Enough of your bull.....

Re:This is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497287)

Exactly, many of the people saying "just like a plane" here really don't get it. They aren't "just like a plane". They are far more "just like a model plane".

A couple hundred bucks and you've already got a workable drone. They are affordable by anyone. Don't need airfields. You cannot defend against them at the borders because they will either:

1). Trivially penetrate border defenses, or;
2). Be launched inside the borders. From anywhere.

This is like comparing early mainframe computers with the PC, and now the smartphone. You could not "control proliferation" of small computers (assuming you wanted to) by controlling the air conditioning suppliers. The small computers don't need air conditioning. They change the game.

Look, as a means of direct destruction in terrorist hands I don't think drones will prove terribly common or effective. The really small ones don't have a lot of lifting power. However as a means of surveillance, and possibly to direct heavier weapons, oh hell yeah. Drones change that equation completely.

And the old V1, or the new Predator drones? They still aren't all that big.

Re:This is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496235)

Amen, the only thing that will make them stop and think about it will be when something small flutters into the capitol building and releases anthrax.

Re:This is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496867)

Anthrax isn't very deadly..

LMAO, must not be paying attention (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about 8 months ago | (#45496131)

the United States will hardly be in a position to condemn them or counsel restraint

Like the United States gives a crap. The US will protest if any other country does it, as we are spoiled children who think we can do as we please.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (5, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#45496409)

It's now basically open season on the US. Don't complain when Pakistani drones blow up a wedding trying to murder some suspected terrorists.

Seriously, the US has managed to make an American's life worthless in the eyes of much of the world because that's how the US treats everyone else.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497005)

Don't complain when Pakistani drones blow up a wedding trying to murder some suspected terrorists.

It'd be interesting to see the reaction to something like that happening. I mean, it's considered acceptable for the US (by the US politicians) to do that in Pakistan, so I am interested to see what happens when a reverse event happens.

I am sure US politicians will understand the need to combat terrorism and suffer collateral damage as a result.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497107)

It purely depends what is most profitable to the military complex profiteers.

Captcha: charming

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (0)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45497265)

. I mean, it's considered acceptable for the US (by the US politicians) to do that in Pakistan

It's considered acceptable by the Pakistani government. The only US military action in Pakistan that wasn't approved by the Pakistani military was the raid against Bin Laden.

Pakistani politicians like to condemn the US after an operation goes badly, but they are given access to the same intelligence that we have, and if they green light the mission.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497381)

Ao did Cuba agree to be overthrown in the failed "bay of pigs" invasion as well? There are numerous examples of the US doing "bad things" to other nations on their own soil which they certainly wouldn't tolerate on US soil.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497041)

This is stupid.
Why shouldn't I complain when you try to kill me, regardless of whether or not I've tried to kill you.
I don't care about your life. I care about my life.
If me being alive requires that I nuke the shit out of some people who live out in the desert then that's what I'll do.

Re:LMAO, must not be paying attention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497337)

It's now basically open season on the US. Don't complain when Pakistani drones blow up a wedding trying to murder some suspected terrorists.

And then you get a decade of pain and misery inflicted on entire regions, just like happened last time the US was attacked in a meaningful way.

It's fun to threaten vengeance against the top dog, but it seldom goes well when he's 10 times the size of the rest of the pack.

some confused with the still missing monkey hymens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496135)

no drone us no bone us

no bomb us more mom us

starving diaper addicts the last of our innocents?

free the innocent stem cells

new clear options are available

Absurd (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496137)

To compare Nuclear weapons to drones is possibly the most intellectually dishonest thing I've ever heard.

Precedent (1)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 8 months ago | (#45496151)

Dropping the atomic bomb on civilian populations in 1945 didn't stop the USA from leading the world toward outlawing "nuclear proliferation" decades later; why should this issue be handled differently?

Re:Precedent (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45496281)

Dropping the atomic bomb on civilian populations in 1945 didn't stop the USA from leading the world toward outlawing "nuclear proliferation" decades later; why should this issue be handled differently?

Lead time - how long was the timespan between developing the nuke and firing up all those non-proliferation treaties? A couple decades?

This time, we have the chance to nip a tyrannical tool in the bud* before it becomes an issue.

* My preferred method? Open-source everything, so that any jackass with $50 and some free time can build themselves an automated, airborne weapons platform. We'll level the playing field manually, with ordnance :)

Re:Precedent (1)

confused one (671304) | about 8 months ago | (#45496469)

It might be nice to avoid the buildup of tens of thousands of weaponized drones on multiple "sides" before making the decision that "drones are bad".

Drones for Defense (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 8 months ago | (#45496183)

Drones will be a great defensive tool. For a few million dollars you could (or will be able to ) deploy a large swarm of drones that can disable or destroy naval targets costing orders of magnitude more than your drone force. That's great news for the countries that have no real need for a navy.

For offense, well, they make great flying bombs. Not everyone needs a predator drone that can be flown over and over. Sometimes all you need a a swarm of delivery agents that can come at a target from multiple directions...in waves, autonomously.

There's nothing the US can really do about it, so it's unclear what the point of this article is, except to trade drone use case ideas.

Re:Drones for Defense (2)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 8 months ago | (#45496317)

flying bombs are called cruise missiles, they've been around for ages and they aren't cheap. naval targets tend to be pretty well defended against these sort of things.

Re:Drones for Defense (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 8 months ago | (#45497067)

Depends how close the ships get. If it's an amphibious invasion (ie: some of them actually have to land onshore) it would be trivial for a country the size of Iran to hire a couple thousand drone jockeys, and create a bunch of drones with enough of a payload to seriously inconvenience a landing craft, and then just throw drones at said landing craft 24/7. Eventually somebody's defense get saturated and the Navy has a problem. Their anti-aircraft guns run out of ammo, their electronic warfare officer faints from lack of sleep, whatever. They're screwed. The Navy would have to nail the drone base, or hack the drones command/control links or be seriously inconvenienced.

Granted that scenario assumes the USAF didn't flatten the drone base, the NSA can't hack their central servers and shut the whole drone effort down, etc., but anytime the weapons mix changes the guys who owned the fanciest weapons have a problem.

Re:Drones for Defense (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 months ago | (#45497085)

For a few million dollars you could (or will be able to ) deploy a large swarm of drones that can disable or destroy naval targets costing orders of magnitude more than your drone force.

People who don't know any better have been saying this (for the equivalent weapons of the period) for the past century.

Hasn't worked out that way yet, and it's unlikely that it'll work out that way in the future.

Or Bazookas. Or Flamethrowers. Or Grenades... (2)

retroworks (652802) | about 8 months ago | (#45496205)

Ok well. Comparing a drone to a nuclear bomb, because drones are in the news, is like comparing a car accident to a train wreck. Land mines are probably the most controversial small-kill technology. The main difference is that drones are an incredibly expensive and complex way to kill a dozen people, as compared to, say, goons with machetes.

Re:Or Bazookas. Or Flamethrowers. Or Grenades... (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45496435)

No, it's like comparing a car accident to all cars in the entire city having an accident all at once.

Re:Or Bazookas. Or Flamethrowers. Or Grenades... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496855)

I'd say that land mines are probably still a bit more of a problem than the current crop of drones. Not that it stops America from using them, of course.

Now, once we get automated hunter-killers, that's when drones are on par with land mines. You're minding your own business and then you die because a piece of metal decided you should. Who set it loose? Who knows! You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Except the landmine is gone, and the hunter-killer is looking for another heat signature.

Bad article (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 8 months ago | (#45496241)

Drones are similar to nuclear bombs in the same way spring showers are similar to class 5 hurricanes.

One thing they miss it that proliferation has already happened. While most countries have not used drones, many, if not most, advanced militarizes have them or are developing them.

There is no real dilemma (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#45496265)

If they are an enemy, you use all the tools you have available to eradicate them.

Re:There is no real dilemma (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45496449)

The problem is that the people of all the worlds countries are not enemies of each other. It's strange then that the governments would make each other enemies. Whom are they fighting? Enemies? Or the perception that they are not needed anywhere but at home, and even then, not so much.

Re:There is no real dilemma (3, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#45496563)

You are mistaken, they are ALL our enemy. Every last one of them. And 80% of the citizens here are as well, if you want to be honest about it.

Re:There is no real dilemma (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496677)

All people, and in fact all life-forms, are intrinstically competitors by default.
I, for example, would benefit economically from your death.

Welcome change (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496515)

I'll take these low level (at least as far as the US is concerned) conflicts in the Middle East over the massive wars of the 20th century any day. In fact despite the huge increases in population, the death total in the Middle East is quite low compared to that of the Crusades and of the Roman/Greek eras This, of course, is of slight comfort to those harmed but to to me it is a sign of hope rather than despair..

Re:There is no real dilemma (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 8 months ago | (#45497509)

If they are an enemy, you use all the tools you have available to eradicate them.

You use the tools you need to win. If you set the goal in war as eradication instead of victory, you have just said the enemy cannot even be allowed to surrender, the war ends only in genocide, and it becomes the most logical thing for the enemy who has heard this from you to do, to fight to the very last possible combatant.

     

It's not mutually assured destruction. (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 8 months ago | (#45496381)

How many years (or months) will it be before some splinter group hits a U.S. political delegation with a drone strike somewhere outside the U.S.? They will see no reason not to do this.

Re:It's not mutually assured destruction. (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 8 months ago | (#45497145)

How many years (or months) will it be before some splinter group hits a U.S. political delegation with a drone strike somewhere outside the U.S.? They will see no reason not to do this.

It'll be awhile.

To have drone tech you need aircraft tech, and most splinter groups don't have aircraft. The ones that do (aka: Hezbollah) got their aircraft from countries, and those countries do not want to give us a reason to level them.

Now if you mean a cheap RC chopper with a gun attached to an improvised hardpoint steered by camera, they could manage that. The trick would be getting a vehicle that small to stay stable when it's dealing with recoil.

Who are we kidding? (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 8 months ago | (#45496383)

The US Government will never place restrictions on its use of drones against the American People. Never.

A flying arrow (3, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | about 8 months ago | (#45496403)

There are some ethical concerns once proliferation increases, including accountability and plausible deniability on the part of bad actors (possibly including ourselves). Still, this issue is much more closely related to small arms than WMDs like nukes. One nuke can kill millions and potentially injure millions more. It's difficult to imagine a scenario -- especially one unique to drones -- where the same could be true of one drone carrying conventional weapons. For the most part, I expect that drones will continue to be used mainly in scenarios where a cruise missile or other air strike might have been used in the past. As a species, we've been killing remotely since the first bow was used in combat. So a few thousand years now. Drones are just the latest way to keep far enough away from the enemy that he can't quickly and easily hit back, which is sort of the point of using a weapon.

Restore the human element. (4, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45496523)

Fighting for your country has important implications that must not be overlooked. A human piloting a machine is not at risk of death. If you don't have to risk your life to deal death then it's easier to do the killing. Furthermore, requiring people to fight people in war directly increases the cost of life to the side that would win. This ensures that war's price can not be ignored by indirect killing. The deaths are tragic and cause people on both sides to cry out for peaceful resolution rather than merciless death. Finally, if people are required to fight a war, then you can not fight a war the people will not fight themselves...

Dark times are dangerously near. The second amendment was never properly interpreted to mean what it should: The right to bear technology. IMO, only manned drones are acceptable. [jetman.com]

Re:Restore the human element. (3, Insightful)

turp182 (1020263) | about 8 months ago | (#45496843)

This has always been one of my qualms with the weaponized drones. No potential loss of life on the part of the attacker. Without this a conflict is not a war, it is pure oppression. By design it cannot be won, only dominated.

In my mind's eye I see a Terminator style war, except with US robots controlled by humans running the show. We don't need an AI.

Re:Restore the human element. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496953)

At this point in the United States of America Incorporated, it appears that the federal government is striving to break the economy, disrupt medical care, and prune the population. Why exactly would they want manned drones?

Re:Restore the human element. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45497521)

So how is that different from the Middle Eastern weapon of choice, the IED?

Re:Restore the human element. (0)

hibji (966961) | about 8 months ago | (#45497335)

On the flip side, if you don't have to risk your life to do the killing, you might be more controlled in your killing. More deliberate, fewer deaths overall, no murder rampages from unbalanced soldiers. If the system is set up right, all drone operations could be recorded and reviewed. There can be more accountability. I'm not saying that military is actually doing this, but the potential is there.

Drones: the final frontier (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496541)

I wouldn't go so far as saying drone development is on par with nuclear weapons in terms of destructive power, but their sheer transformative impact of remotely piloted or autonomous aircraft on law enforcement, security, privacy and warfare cannot be understated. 24/7/365 surveillance. Aerial assassinations. A complete lack of accountability. Vulnerability to electronic warfare. A cost low enough to see them employed by nearly every nation and corporation on earth with an annual budget of over a billion dollars.

We're in the future, and it's not looking pretty.

The Markov State (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 8 months ago | (#45496547)

The Markov State:
State where the Ricin is admiited not by Umbrella but by Drone.
Also see: Terror State.

Re:The Markov State (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 8 months ago | (#45497303)

The Markov State: The state in the future not dependent on the past given the present.

I honestly never thought it would come to this (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 8 months ago | (#45496565)

Drones are not as complicated to make as nuclear weapons. Weaponizing drones only slightly more complicated - it' a technology even "lesser" or "backwards" countries will have perfected in a manner of a few short years, and you can bet everyone is working on it right now. There will be no stabilizing standoff. With or without ground based battle robots, it's really starting to look like we will bring about our extinction with armed and physically agile computers with orders to kill. Courtesy of the drone that got lost and made the decision to land itself on a road in Iran, we already know they can act without a human pilot. Once we have successfully committed ourselves to the death of every last human by piloted and autonomous robots - I wonder what the robots will do when there are no humans left to kill. Perhaps by the time we reach that point their decision making will be advanced enough that they can decide to work together and evolve. I wonder if they will remember us in their history. I wonder if they will be grateful for the human folly of creating them.

Re:I honestly never thought it would come to this (2)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#45497469)

The drone is really like a post ww2 infantry weapon. A lot of cheap/expensive power in the hands of one contractor.
The real new option is a political 'ok' to be seen for the double tap strike to kill rescue workers.
Later autonomous loitering with a command to go after anything moving in an area will be an option.
Drones really allow govs to explore what the UK did during later parts of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Boer_War#British_response [wikipedia.org]
A "blockhouse" system with drones to divide up a country and kill anything that moves.
Camps for the "civilians" - total death outside the camps.
Over time counter measures will be found. The link to the drone or how to fool the software in the drone to expend fuel, ammo or just fly around.

And it starts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496635)

China has just tested it's first stealth fighter drone.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-25033155

I hope the USA reaps what it has sown here.

Nukes are different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496643)

Nukes could kill billions in a day.
Nukes could drive species extinct.
Nukes could render the earth permanently uninhabitable to humans, bringing all human progress to a dead stop.

Drones do not pose such a risk.

Re:Nukes are different (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#45496987)

Nukes could render the earth permanently uninhabitable to humans, bringing all human progress to a dead stop.

You drastically overestimate the destructive potential of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons can end civilization as we know it. Exterminating the entire human race? Not bloody likely. Homo Sapiens are persistent little fuckers that have survived natural catastrophes far in excess of anything we're capable of doing to the blue marble with modern technology.

The living will envy the dead and all that jazz, but the human race would almost certainly survive.

Re:Nukes are different (1)

dk20 (914954) | about 8 months ago | (#45497403)

Especially those in power (the ones who started the war) as they have their billion dollar bunker complexes to hid in while their "citizens" die.

The birth of Skynet (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 8 months ago | (#45496673)

I'm surprised this meme hasn't been brought up yet, however add AI and weapons to drones...

Well (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 8 months ago | (#45496801)

Although I did not RTFA, I don't imagine Nukes could be an everyday part of our military, not like drones are.

Dystopia (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496805)

A dystopian society is about the loss of control, of people who are disempowered. We have already seen market forces which were supposed to serve people subverted easily to serve a minority in a step back to the old feudal societies they were a solution to. Profit was a means not the end.

With concentration of economic power, resources are not devoted to what people and communities need or want but what oligarchs will profit from, forced down, and this self serving, self sustaining cycle eventually delivers a dystopia of a powerful few and an enslaved many.

In effect the process is already underway underlined by the economic fraud of the preceding 20 years and NSA surveillance, both taking irreversible steps without public consensus. This has effectively ceded democracy to the motions of elections, and a free press, functioning accountability and economics to powerful and sophisticated ideologues.

Summary Says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45496933)

The summary says lawmakers can now decide how to proceed and what military uses are appropriate? What does it matter when the military refuses to stay within the current restrictions on other things... like data gathering?

Dangerous road (2)

Bruha (412869) | about 8 months ago | (#45497055)

Drones and robotic soldiers are very dangerous. A government could order human soldiers to shoot their fellow countrymen and they would likely rebel. Robot soldiers have no conscious and will carry out those orders.

Not The Same...or Are They and Does It Matter (1)

erebus2161 (3441365) | about 8 months ago | (#45497155)

While it might seem extreme to compare drones and nuclear weapons (and let's face it, it probably is), within a limited scope they are actually the same. Of course, so is every other weapon ever invented. There are lots of differences between nuclear weapons and drones. The number of people they kill in a single strike, difficulty and cost of construction, availability of raw materials, risk to civilians. But here's where they are the same. They give a huge advantage to a side who has them against a side that doesn't. The problem is that it's unlikely to remain one-sided for long. The question we have to ask ourselves is if having a temporary advantage now followed by a world where our enemies have drones is worth it. The same could have been said for firearms, automatic firearms, submarines and fighter jets. Ultimately, should we develop international laws to govern how these new weapons can be used? Absolutely, if the current laws don't already provide the necessary restrictions. But, unless we suddenly live in a world where the need for a military is no longer necessary, I don't see haw we can not develop any weapon which gives us an advantage over our enemies and reduces the risk to our own soldiers.

Re:Not The Same...or Are They and Does It Matter (3, Insightful)

gagol (583737) | about 8 months ago | (#45497513)

I believe the point was that if the USA justify the use of drones to take out targets in other countries we are not in conflict with, there is a real possibility that another country can use drones to take out targets in the USA as long as they are declared terrorists. It is more about rules of engagement then the destructive power of each weapon system. That being said, I found making friends out of foes is more easy and fun than focusing on hate and destruction.

Ignorance (2, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45497311)

"If they decide to use their own drones outside the boundaries of international law against people they brand “terrorists,” the United States will hardly be in a position to condemn them or counsel restraint."

Every drone strike that the US has ever executed was approved by the government of the country involved. There have been no violations of international law.

As long as Russia or China follows the same policy, the US would have no objection.

Re:Ignorance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45497427)

Every drone strike that the US has ever executed was approved by the government of the country involved.

Somehow I find that unlikely. The point relating to breaking of the international law is not about using drones but about targeting civilians.

Drone Gap? (2)

dk20 (914954) | about 8 months ago | (#45497333)

Does that man all future presidents will start talking about the "drone gap", and how the US needs to double the defence budget to keep up and maintain its superiority?

Do what i say, not what i do (0)

gmuslera (3436) | about 8 months ago | (#45497369)

When US bombs with drones weddings, funerals, rescuers, schools and in general spread terror in the 6+ countries where is using drones to bombard the population, is ok, we have to do it, is the right thing. If any other country dares to kill someone even by accident with a drone, probably will make a trade embargo, ask for allies to invade them, cry that there are human rights that are being violated.

Maybe the rest of the world should take a clue and do a trade embargo and break all treaties with the US, i wonder if when Germany was in war was accepted to trade with them no matter how profitable would be doing it.

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