Drones, both the military kind and the “civilian” kind, have been a lot in the news lately, so much that one could say — as one of our readers lamented — that we are droning about drones.

I have droned myself about this controversial subject, here and here, including droning about a new medal to be awarded to the pilots of these drones — all with innumerable, droning “Updates.”

But all droning aside, it is a subject that interests and worries many and consumes some.

On the military, or anti-terrorists side, the concerns are of a legal, moral and ethical nature, including what many feel is the non-judicial, indiscriminate killings of these bad actors, the tragic accidental killings of innocents — the so-called “collateral damage” — and the always present “slippery slope.”

Talking about the “slippery slope,” such military use now appears to be slipping away into civilian or commercial applications, where the concerns are mainly related to privacy issues, the “Big Brother” scenario — George Orwell’s “1984,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and other “dystopian” (I had to look this one up) nightmares.

Talking about dystopian nightmares — forgive the drone-like repetition — the New York Times has a fascinating “Op-Doc” today about, you guessed it, “Drones for America!

By the way, “Op-Docs” are “short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists,” published periodically at the Times. (To learn more about these interesting Op-Docs and to perhaps submit one yourself, please click here).

But back to “Drones for America!”

There is no doubt as to where the author of this Op-Doc, Drew Christie, stands on the issue of drones, both for military and civilian-commercial purposes.

On their military use, and answering the rhetorical, “How will flying drones affect the psychology of those living under them?” Christie says:

For clues we can look to Pakistan, where the United States has killed thousands in drone strikes. Some Pakistani children reportedly have trouble studying and have dropped out of school because of the fear of drones buzzing overhead; some adults are afraid to gather publicly or attend weddings and funerals.

Reflecting on “domestic drones,” which, the author suspects, “will eventually have a similar effect: allowing the state to dominate the public through pervasive eyes in the sky,” he ponders:

How will these machines be regulated? Will they be weaponized? Will the National Rifle Association insist on the right of every American to have a drone to protect his or her family and home? None of this has been decided yet, but American lawmakers are pushing for drones to be in the skies over your head very soon. (Members of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus — also known as the drone caucus — in the House of Representatives have received $8 million in contributions over the last four years from drone manufacturers.) How will flying drones affect the psychology of those living under them?

When Christie was developing his animated Op-Doc, he had in mind the adoption of drones by the Seattle Police Department — a program now abandoned — and, in addition to the two previously mentioned dystopian novels, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 novel “We.”

I highly recommend that you watch Christies’ delightful yet frightening animated satire where a former K.G.B. agent gleefully “welcomes a future in which Americans live under the watchful eyes of drones.”

Drew Christie is an animator, filmmaker and illustrator who lives in Seattle. His previous Op-Docs are “Hi! I’m a Nutria,” “Allergy to Originality” and “A Thanksgiving Eel.”

Image: www.shutterstock.com

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Sort by:   newest | oldest
ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago
“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours?” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, commenting on US drone policy in a letter to the New York Times. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has long been known for speaking out on behalf of those whose voice is under-represented. Now that group has expanded to include those dehumanized and objectified into the category of “collateral damage.” Thank you Archbishop Tutu. Sometimes it takes more courage to speak for the impoverished innocents who… Read more »
dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 7 months ago
I’d be happy to have that conversation, think we should discuss the situation and we need several commissions to study the overseas drones that attack people of color or religion, and another commission on the use of drones in the 50 states. When all else fails, we could restrict the electronic control of these (FCC?) with strict universal registration and electronic monitoring (Little brother). We set up missile defenses in the past so this should be easy, or not, if the ACLU jumps in and it goes to the SCOTUS based on drones are people argument. Meantime, a International Court… Read more »
ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago
A point of information that has not been covered here at TMV, notwithstanding all the droning on about the subject of drones: The USA is currently the subject of a United Nations investigation to determine whether our drone policy contravenes international law. Unlike bombing Germany during WWII, we are not war with nations like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. As such, our incursions into their territory to engage in acts of warfare that kill their civilian nationals may be deemed to constitute a violation of sovereignty, contrary to international law. The UN report is not expected to be completed until autumn.… Read more »
ordinarysparrow
Guest
ordinarysparrow
3 years 7 months ago
The more i learn about drones the greater my opposition… I have drawn the line in the sand that has no opening for drone technology…If ever there is a time for us to have a ‘no’ this is one… We need to pull back and close the door on drones, not so much what they can do now, but because of what and who is promoting them and the likelihood of a de-evolving endgame… Dorain would like to add these perspectives to the drone on drones…which i find to be a most important topic that we cannot afford to numb… Read more »
brcarthey
Guest
brcarthey
3 years 7 months ago
This is one of many cases where I am in moral and ethical limbo with regards to the use of drones. I perfectly understand the “why’s” (minimal US casualties, attacking those first before they attack us, cheaper operation, etc.) of their use. On those bases, I can’t say that I oppose drones for those purposes. I don’t mind that my government is attacking an organization (without borders) who’s hell-bent on the destruction of my country and fellow citizens. Though I could understand (in a way) their anger over an infidel nation’s army on holy soil, they lost that understanding when… Read more »
ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago
Russia has separatist groups in some of its provinces, and some of the radical elements of those separatist groups have enagaged in tactics that could be referred to as terrorism. By the logic above, Russia would be acting within the rules of the Geneva Conventions if it sent drones into the United States to take out indviduals who supported or belonged to such separatist groups, even if using drone warfare in that manner resulted in killing innocent American citizens as “collateral damage.” Are you sure the above is an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions you are comfortable with? Or does… Read more »
ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Dorian,

If I mistakenly associated your position with the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions you quoted in your prior comment, please accept my apology.

tidbits

ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Unfortunately, I will not be available for most of the day today beginning in just a few minutes.

One note, lest we waste time and energy disagreeing about irrelevancies: it is the US position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the never ending “war on terror”. That is why, through two administrations, Gitmo has “enemy combatants”, not prisoners of war.

ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago
Oh my. This is exactly what I feared. My hypothetical about Russian separatists was based on your quotes concerning interpretation of the Geneva Conventions. It had nothing to do with the US DOJ White Paper criteria. Inserting the White Paper criteria into the Geneva Conventions doesn’t work. Russia is bound by the Geneva Conventions; it is not bound by our DOJ’s White Paper, and the White Paper criteria are not part of the Geneva Conventions. Humorouly, I considered making a comment that any retort to the Russian separatist hypothetical could not reference the White Paper. Of course, the definitions contained… Read more »
ordinarysparrow
Guest
ordinarysparrow
3 years 7 months ago
Dorian a simple question, if you don’t mind.. As you have peeled this and continue to peer into the many layers of drones…has there been any shifting towards pro or con?… At the beginning you said you did not share to change opinions.. i see that as honoring.. when i am honest within myself am not as clear or honorable as you… for i would like you to have a turnaround on drone technology… Guess that is not likely to happen? What would it take for you to find a ‘no’ on this one? And this is asked respectfully….
ordinarysparrow
Guest
ordinarysparrow
3 years 7 months ago
Thanks Dorian… laughed with the first sentence…so glad to hear of the recovery… You have a good bounce… Just want to say what is most evident…. in the disagreement both of you come from the best within you, which is a love of country and the welfare of real people… i respect that… Thought you were leaning a bit from where you started… that is good… So wish the U.S. would turn around on this one.. am interested in the angle that is being discussed today. It seems the only chance of drone warfare not crossing the Rubicon is for… Read more »
dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 7 months ago
Funny, I seldom look for certitude on an issue such as drones. Both ES and DDW are correct to some extent and also not so much. The drone is a mindless beast or a long range observer, and as a weapon it sometimes is ill used or is a way to kill the unreachable. As an eye in the sky it can be intrusive on privacy or save lives if it can find bad guys where other methods fail. In short, it is a tool and has to be used properly for it to be its most effective, and yes… Read more »
ELIJAH SWEETE
Member
3 years 7 months ago
wpDiscuz