I read that the laws of war are vague in relation to drone combatants, can someone please explain to me why the use of drones is controversial. Well, I have your answer right here. It's all about policy considerations. For example, the US is using drones in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) because it keeps human combatants out of harms way and in a culture of preserving life (which the US has) we value human life over any monetary loss we incur from the destruction of our drones (which are very expensive pieces of technology). I would imagine that most people would agree with the benefits of using drones over humans if the goals can still effectively be accomplished. So what can be bad about using drones? Consider this, during the Cold War, an all out war was avoided because of the seemingly crazy policy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Simply put, neither side wanted to start a war with the other because both were capable of totally destroying the other and if you started the war to destroy the other country you were assured that your country would be completely destroyed as well. During the Cold War era, the US and USSR did not agree on many things but one thing that they did agree on was a treaty that stated neither country would develop missile defenses. Why would they agree to limit themselves when this type of technology would be so must have beneficial to either side? It was because the benefit of the technology would be so advantageous to the side that developed it first that the leaders of both countries feared the side that developed it first would launch a preemptive strike against the other during the small window of advantage that they held over the other. In other words, the country with the missile defense advantages would not have been assured a mutual destruction and they would be able to theoretically win if war broke out between the two. Therefore, they agreed to limit the development of the technology in the hopes that MAD would prevent all out war between the two countries. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Yeah, it does but crazy or not MAD is given much credit in preventing World War3. Missile defenses are still controversial to this day. Russia was all up in arms and took action against the US when George Bush signed a treaty with Turkey to put missile defenses in the country. Publicly they said it was to thwart a threat from Iran but Russia took the most offense to this move. Some observers even say Russia's military invasion of Georgia (a US ally on Russia's border) was in response to the move. What does all this have to do with the drone controversy? Using drones in war are controversial for the same reason that missile defenses continue to be controversial. Many observers believe drone present an unfair advantage on the battle field that they fear will lead to an increase in wars and conflicts. Especially concerned are those countries that do not have the technology to develop drones. They are very concerned that a country like the US will be more likely to use military actions against them in place of diplomatic actions because the use of drones is a low risk form of the show of force. For example, consider Libya, no US ground troops were deployed in backing the uprising in Libya. NATO only used air and sea forces to attack certain targets of the Libyan government. Those who wish to ban or limit the use of drones in war fear that their use increases the plausibility and acceptability of using force in lieu of other channels of dispute resolution. As technology progresses and drones start to possess greater war waging abilities, critics believe this will only exacerbate the possibility of war. I know this is not the easiest subject to comprehend and the international relations theories are not all discussed here but I hope this helps to shed any light on why the use of drones in war (a seemingly innocuous subject) is controversial. It is a great question that we as a society will have address sometime in the near future and I am pleased you brought up this conversation.
Stratfor Military Analyst Paul Floyd examines drone proliferation around the globe and explains the technology's constraints and potential. For more analysis. . .