The drones are coming.
According to news reports nationwide, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the government, military, law enforcement and even private citizens may soon explode.
The implications of such a crowded sky — and the drones watching, waiting and at times firing from it — are significant and varied. They touch on issues involving invasion of privacy, homeland security, modern warfare and the ethics of high-technology, among others.
In recent weeks, students have been sharing their opinions of the impending drone boom, battling what a senior at Johns Hopkins University describes as “a love/hate relationship with drones.”
This photo shows a drone made by Airinov, a French company. Are drones the flying technological marvel that could help save lives or a sinister aerial tool which edges the United States ever closer towards becoming a surveillance society?
Emory University junior Ross Fogg favors them as fighting machines, especially if they spare soldiers’ lives.
As he writes in The Emory Wheel, “Unmanned drones help remove American soldiers from battle while still killing America’s enemies who wish to cause as much death and destruction to the country as possible. It is a far better alternative to sending out forces on the ground to do the job. Thousands of Americans have sacrificed their lives in recent wars, and many more have endured separation from their families, loss of physical abilities, and mental trauma, to name only a few other sacrifices. If the opportunity to defeat our enemies without risking American life presents itself, it is not only favorable, but ideal, given the context of war.”
University of Minnesota student Ronald Dixon agrees with Fogg, arguing in The Minnesota Daily, “The evidence is clear: Drones save money and lives, and, thus, should be preferred.”
Yet, Dixon does raise an important question with an as-yet-unacceptable answer: “How about the legality of such a program? This is very difficult to deduce. The Constitution gives Congress the power to raise an army and to declare war but obviously lacks the mention of drones. Moreover, is the use of drones a declaration of war, and if so, against whom? More legal clarity is needed by the Legislature or the judiciary.”
Matthew Kenyon sees the legal confusion as only one part of a problem he dubs “nothing short of a national disgrace.”
At the start of a column in The Daily Evergreen,the Washington State University student sets a bloody scene, one he blames on increased U.S. drone strikes: “Imagine a peaceful summer morning on a quiet suburban street, suddenly interrupted by a strange screeching sound as a missile drops 60,000 feet and reduces one of the homes to rubble. Bodies of children and adults lie strewn about the burning wreckage, while thousands of miles away in an air conditioned control room foreign pilots congratulate each other on another successful strike. Unfortunately, this absurd scene is a reality for millions living in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.”
According to Kenyon, “We cannot allow our government to apply the same principles of surveillance, terror and intimidation at home as it currently does so unjustly abroad. We must stand against this flying terrorist Panopticon.”
For her part, University of Mississippi student Brittany Sharkey calls drone usage, especially in warfare, “a tool without rules.”
As she writes in The Daily Mississippian, “We are treading down a dangerous path with the use of drones. Whether we like it not, as a nation, we are setting the precedent for the rest of the world. Currently, that precedent is that it is acceptable to use drone strikes to take out enemies on a foreign territory, and that has terrifying implications.”
It is the larger implications that prompt Smith College student Jamie Samdahl to argue in The Sophian “if drones don’t make you nervous, they should.”
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