Drone Strikes in Warfare: Ethical or Unethical?

“However, numerous ethical concerns remain including the ever-present risk of collateral damage, the generational legacy of these strikes, and the legal ramifications behind selecting targets.”

In 21st century warfare, the rise of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) was not only a game-changer in terms of surveilling state enemies but also in killing them with no blowback to the aggressor. Increasingly, we are living in a world where the prevalence of technology such as UAVs is making it easier for the nation-state to fight a non-traditional war without having to put boots on the ground or pilots in the air. However, numerous ethical concerns remain including the ever-present risk of collateral damage, the generational legacy of these strikes, and the legal ramifications behind selecting targets.

It is my belief that drone strikes may be ethical in terms of limited usage against known terrorist or militia leaders but that they must also comply with international norms, which have to be agreed upon by all states who use drones for offensive military action. I believe that drone strikes should not be used as an offensive first resort unless capture of the enemy combatant is impossible or if the collateral damage of conducting a standard military operation is too high.

UAVs, or drones, can stay in the air from between eight to twelve hours continuously without needing to be refueled. They can maintain the element of surprise to strike targets without having their aerial location compromised. Being able to survey in detail a remote desert where enemy targets are gathered to a dense urban setting where leaders of a terrorist organization are meeting, the UAV is able to record at a high level of resolution what is going on anywhere in the world. For the state whether that is the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, the drones are able to go and see where the average soldier or airman can’t go without risking life or limb for the mission.                              

Being able to strike enemy combatants in states, which are known terrorist havens, allows the U.S. and its allies to conduct kill operations without risking their own soldiers, airmen in countries where their physical presence would incite the local population. For some examples, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan are weak or failing states who have been host to terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda. Due to political constraints, The U.S. military is unable to eliminate the threat that these non-state actors pose through special forces raids, which is one reason why the U.S. has increasingly used drone strikes instead.

Drone use is perceived as less expensive, more effective, and less politically risky to political leaders who wish to forgo a risky raid or a bombing campaign by investing in targeted drones strikes instead to eliminate threats. For example, a U.S. Air Force airman can manually control a drone from over 7000 miles away in Nevada to strike a terrorist target in Northwest Pakistan just by pressing a few buttons.

Instead of having that same pilot fly his F-16 over Pakistan and risk being shot down or captured, the U.S. government and military are willing to use the UAVs for reasons of cost, effectiveness, and overall utility. The collateral damage of an F-16 versus an armed UAV should also be considered since an F-16 strike, especially in an urban area, is likely to cause a greater number of civilian casualties. Drone pilots can also help U.S. troops, for example, in being aware of enemy movements near them and guarding their positions, so as to prevent them from any surprises that could endanger their lives while operating in enemy territory.

Drone strikes may carry less collateral damage to civilian lives, but there will always be the chance for the loss of innocent life and families being destroyed. Whether that’s an errant missile crashing into a wedding party or a group of children running by a targeted building within seconds of a missile being launched and getting caught in the crossfire, death from the skies will not only affect terrorists but women and children too. Because drone strikes are less costly to governments and militaries, the rules of engagement can be abused to focus too often on low-level targets, who pose some threat but who could still be captured for intelligence purposes. A lack of international norms and standards regarding drone warfare leads to serious consequences in terms of possible abuse by governments who overuse it on secondary targets.

Airmen and women, who conducted drone strikes have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because they get to know their targets, see how they live, and struggle with having the power of death over them. High-resolution surveillance makes the act of killing personal despite the fact that these servicemen are thousands of miles away. When a drone strike goes wrong and innocent civilians are killed, it leaves a long-lasting psychological effect on the military personnel involved.

They may not see their victims when they are flying an F-16, but they are aware of what collateral damage is when they see the dead bodies of women, children being shown on the high definition screen. Military service members do not last long as drone pilots due to the immense mental strain placed on them especially when they did not sign-up for conducting warfare with a joystick. Alcoholism, depression, and family problems have occurred due to pilots being asked to conduct drone strikes in the name of national security.

Unfortunately, drone warfare may kill current enemies only to create more of them in the future. A son or daughter who see their father or mother killed by an American drone strike will not forget that in the future. Also, it is certain that relations with weak or failed states is not helped through drone strikes but rather harmed by these operations. Anti-American sentiment will not decrease but intensify due to drone strikes, and the constant buzzing noise of these aircraft causes fear among those communities. The presence of drones may act as a recruiting tool for terrorists and turn the local population against the offensive power.

Lastly, escalation is a grave concern that the use of drone warfare carries with it. With the spread of the technology and the ability for greater access in the future for state and non-state actors to purchase drones of varying sizes and capabilities, the U.S. and its allies may be at risk of being attacked. Whether it is China, Russia, or Iran, these states may use their drones to attack U.S. or allied forces. Greater risk of conflict between powers due to the evolution of drone warfare shouldn’t be underestimated. Terrorists could buy smaller yet lethal drones to attack both civilian, military targets to retaliate against states without putting their lives at risk. In five to ten years, lone-wolf terrorists may want to use small drones to attack vulnerable targets such as airports, bridges, the electric grid, and other infrastructure.

Drone strikes will remain part of 21st century warfare but international norms regarding their usage have not been written. Similar to nuclear and chemical weapons agreements, drone warfare should be regulated. Questions such as who should be targeted by drone strikes, what are the short and long-term consequences of this warfare? must be answered by our leaders. Preventing the unlimited usage of drone strikes and its proliferation should be top priorities to prevent the worst effects of this technology from becoming real. The ethics of drones are still being debated but states have a collective responsibility to minimize collateral damage by creating the legal frameworks necessary to enforce the rules of this new form of warfare. 

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of any outside organization, company, or government.

How to Spot a BS Artist

I do not like to speak ill of people, but I do think it is important to warn about certain people who may not have your best interests in mind. You may want to look out for what I will reference as being ‘BS Artists’ as I do not like to curse in my writings. I will tell you what a BS Artist is, what to look for in spotting a BS Artist, and how to avoid them as best as you can. BS Artists do not necessarily intend or want to be mean and they are not necessarily bad people, but they can be deceptive, misleading, and not have your interests in mind.

BS Artists are definitely not your friends even though they may initially appear to be friendly. They seem to care about you initially and remember certain details about who you are. Their kind of friendliness is an obvious bit of shallowness that leaves you feeling a little let down. You can tell after a little while that the friendliness was not genuine, that they are looking to curry a favor or are trying to take more from you than they want to give back, and they are mainly looking out for themselves and want to take advantage of your time or your money.

A BS Artist will do their best to convince you of something without giving any proof or by hyping something up without checking his or her facts. They do not see lying as that bad if it’s a means to an end even if that hurts people’s feelings or misleads them. They resent facts and the truth and will attack you if you push back on them. If it is in their interests, they will BS their way even if it means disregarding the truth to further their own agenda even if it causes harm.

Instead of admitting that they are wrong or that they do not know or to say that they need to find out the facts first, they go ahead with illogical assumptions and conclusions on any given subject and will not back down at any cost. They would rather ‘save face’ or maintain positive relations with others rather than be honest and upfront about what they might have been wrong about. Because lies upon lies can do the most damage, BS Artists cause a lot more harm because the little white lies become big lies and before they can admit fault, many people can be hurt from being misled.

It is not a bad trait to be confident, but BS Artists take it to the next level by being cocky and showing hubris even in the face of contrary evidence or contradictory claims. They can be overconfident, selfish, and demeaning when other people disagree with them or want to debate regarding the facts of the matter. Being that cocky will get a BS Artist into trouble and can cost them dearly even if they are able to evade the truth for a little while. Even if they put off the truth for months of years, it will come back to bite them and it could cost them money, their jobs, their families, and their freedom.

From devious landlords to banking fraudsters to pyramid scheme creators to corrupt politicians, they are all BS artists at the heart of it and while some people in these professions are good people and care about others, BS artists in these fields of work give others a bad reputation because of the heinous acts they end up committing.

What we have to do as a society is to not enable them to rise to influence other or hold power over others. It starts with a strong sense of accountability, ethics, and holding people responsibility for their actions. It has to also begin with not any of the small lies slide which end up becoming bigger and bigger lies that cause a lot more damage the more a BS artist gets enabled. A BS Artist is bad enough but when he or she has free reign to do as they please with no consequences so then the rest of society will be left holding the bag and with no due recourse to hold them accountable.

You first have to detect if there are any lies, get to know that person really well and decide if they are truthful and trustworthy. It may take months or even years but don’t jump into a friendship or a business partnership with someone you haven’t seriously gotten to know for. When you are not in a rush, why risk a lot when you don’t know anything about that person? Another warning sign is when they refuse to divulge information about themselves when you start to get to know them such as what their job is like, a little about their hobbies, and what they enjoy doing.

You should also make sure that they want to get to know you and that they follow up on their commitments when you ask them for their time. If they aren’t willing to respond to your emails or phone calls, you should not push forward with any higher level of commitment such as an in-person commitment or any long-term partnership or relationship. Do not let a BS Artist let you waste your time or your money whether it’s through the television or face-to-face.

A BS Artist is not hard to find, and they are always going to be around. Part of being a functioning adult is knowing how to think critically about who you are dealing with and how you deal with them. You have to be skeptical to some degree and having a ‘wait and see’ mentality when it comes to other people. You do not want to give much or give too little but it’s not good to heavily invest since you may get burned in the process. The best you can do is really get to know the other person well whether its’ for business, relationships, or career-wise.

The main characteristics that you want to avoid are people who are deceitful, uncaring about the truth, and not willing to hear the facts. They can be manipulative, compulsive liars, and they may use you to get ahead and not feel any remorse about it. Some BS Artists are so good at it sadly that you may only realize that they are a BS Artist a decade or two decades later. There are going to be times like that unfortunately where you may be taken advantage of and done all you can to avoid that happening. The best you can do in that case is admit that you made a mistake but were trying to protect yourself to the best of your ability. At times in life, you have to cut your losses and hope the damage was not too bad.

Ultimately, what we all must do is make sure that the BS Artists do not hold too much sway over our society or our economy. That is when the real trouble begins when they control a lot of daily life leading to greater corruption, inequality, and societal dysfunction. When an entire society is deceived, the damage may last for decades and we are likely to know that we were warned but not enough of us were aware that we were dealing with BS Artists rather than genuine and good people. We have to do better than that and make sure that we prioritize the right kind of character, ethics, and personal qualities in our politics, in our daily life, and in our society.

The Why of Standards

How do we define standards? What exactly do they mean to our society and the world as a whole? See, the thing about standards is that if they are not observed by everyone to some degree than what would be the point of having them in the first place. Having standards when it comes to behavior, dress, professionalism, ethics, etc. helps society to function and for people to live productive and healthy lives. Without having standards or not being beholden to anyone else will create a society of winner-take-all or every man or every woman for themselves, which is not only counterproductive but also self-destructive in the long run.

As defined by Dictionary.com, A ‘standard’ is defined as “something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; or an approved model.” It’s a general definition but you can see that creating a standard requires the consent of the society at large. Standards can be difficult or easy to enforce depending on how popular they are but the total absence of standards in different areas of life should be fought against as much as possible. Everybody has different standards but the key to keep in mind is whether a lack of standards or a complete abandonment of standards is making the local community or overall society worse off as a result.

We don’t think about it but basic standards helps create laws, rules, and regulations that keep society running well. When there are no standards in anything whether its’ with business, politics, dress, the environment, etc. then every individual man, woman, and child will suffer in some regard as a result. Another thing to keep in mind is that a lack of standards or standards that are burdensome and counterproductive also cause harm to us as well.

Standards change over time but there are certain ideals and beliefs that I think should stand the test of time. By this I mean that basic manners and politeness should always be observed, presenting yourself well in your outer dress and appearance depending on the setting is crucial, and that you add with basic integrity, decency, and honesty when doing business or leading as a member of your community. Standards over time for these particular areas should not change and should even become stronger so that the next generations do not forget how to act, behave, and be good.

Standards can be relaxed in a number of areas or they can be hardened in other areas depending upon the mood and whims of the larger society but those areas I listed above should be consistent and not be trifled with. When basic manners, integrity, and matters of presenting become optional rather than mandatory, it’s likely that the entire society will feel the ill effects of such an absence of standards rather quickly. Fundamentally, systemic societal issues such as corruption, violence, and poverty, which while they have a wide range of causes are still related to an absence of moral and behavioral standards.

In a free society, standards can most definitely change and be adapted to fit to the times but it has to be with the approval of the majority of those people in that society. Leaving standards to the whims of a few leaders can be cumbersome and even negligent especially if they themselves due not match the standards for which they should follow based on their leadership roles. Standards are best when they are created, managed, and enforced in a democratic fashion and where the majority of people in that society are able to follow those standards.

While we are all individuals, we are all still apart of a collective society and we have to sometimes sacrifice our personal standards when we come up against those standards of the larger society even when we may fundamentally disagree with them. No standard is perfect but if the society has collectively agreed upon those standards, then all of the people must abide by them to the best of their ability. If the standards are to be changed, that should be done over time with the consent of the majority. Even if we don’t like the standards, if no one agrees to them, then they are not standards anymore and society could suffer as a result.

If you don’t like the absence of certain standards or believe that they are too burdensome on you or people that you know, then you need to make the effort and put in the work to change these standards. If you don’t like with how someone is behaving, then you need to make an informed argument as to how that person should behave in a more polite and decent manner. If you see some form of corruption and certain political leaders are letting it slide, then you need to take some responsibility in holding yourself first to a higher standard and then calling out that corruption to get others behind you so that the corruption may end in the future.

Individuals have power in a society with standards but they will fundamentally have less power in a society where there are weak standards or none at all. That is also the case where one sole individual can set standards for everyone else without so much as a protest from others, which is also dangerous and detrimental to society as a whole.

While standards such as for behavior, dress, professionalism, ethics, etc. may not always be popular to uphold, these standards form the backbone of the collective society. With the absence of any sort of standards comes at the behest of laws, rules, regulations, and principles as well. Standards form the base for a civilized society and in their absence; there is no way that a society of individuals can function at all.

When you read this article, think about your own standards and how they came to be in your thinking. Also, think about how important they are to you. Lastly, think about the current standards of your society and how long it took for them to be formed and implemented as well as how important they also are regardless if you agree with their being in existence or not. Standards are not meant to be popular all the time but they are meant to ensure codes of conduct in various manners of life.

The sheer absence of standards leads to an anarchy of sorts that would render polite society meaningless and turn individuals against each other in a collective free-for-all. Understanding the why of standards will make you more likely to improve and better your own existing ones.