The US military is going drone crazy. As technology gets better, drones are capable of the precision, endurance, reliability and firepower needed to replace or augment manned combat forces. Unfortunately, drones are no less flawed than humans when it comes to killing:
An AP investigation in Pakistan’s North Waziristan published in February found that at least 194 people had been killed in 10 separate attacks over the preceding 18 months. At least 138 of the dead were militants, according to 80 villagers interviewed by the AP. The other 56 victims were either civilians or police. In all, a minimum of 2,800 people have died in no fewer than 375 US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2004, according to a count by the UK Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Many hundreds of those killed were probably innocent bystanders.
There should always be a human in the loop, especially when it comes to doing the harshest thing one man can do to another–take another human life. I doubt that many civilians were actually killed by drones, simply because they do not carry that much firepower with as few drones as we actually have. I do believe that the number of civilian casualties from drones is higher than it is with manned aircraft, which should serve as a caution as we do develop many more drones with much more firepower. It may be contingent upon military operators to perform immediate battle damage assessment and collect data on the number of potential civilians killed in an attack. If the military wants to increase usage of drones, it will need some evidence that human operators are accepting fiduciary responsibility for the lives being taken at the push of a button. At the end of the day, we as a society need to ask ourselves if taking human life is just a video game, especially if we are accidentally killing civilians.