Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drones' popularity takes off

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies' reliance on pilotless aircraft has produced the inevitable unintended consequences.

Perceived as a low risk way to conduct high-level surveillance, and to take out perceived threats in far away lands, the so-called drones have proliferated as the "war on terror" has dragged on through Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Closer to home, these remote controlled planes patrol the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, and there have been reports of police use. The Americans are thought to have at least 7,000 of them.

As with every advance in military technology, it was only a matter of time before the genie escaped and began raising hell farther afield.

According to a New York Times report, the international market for drones is exploding, with China and Israel as major sellers. Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan are close behind, and more than than 50 countries now have them in their arsenals.

In addition to concerns about their being used for terrorist attacks and industrial spying, there is the unsettling realization that targeting of people in this manner has been legitimized. Having used them for various assassinations, the White House's protests are now unlikely to carry much weight when Iran or Pakistan uses a drone to kill someone they find undesirable.

It's hard to see how this won't get completely out of hand. Keep an eye on the sky.

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