Panel on Drone Warfare Opens Discussion

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This Monday, April 28, Colorado College's Gaylord Hall will host a free panel discussion titled "Reality, Legality, and Morality of Drone Warfare." The event is at 7 p.m., is open to the public, and will include refreshments.

The panel will feature Colonel James L. Cook, head of the Air Force Academy's philosophy department; Claude d'Estree, director of the International Human Rights degree program at University of Denver; and Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Stephen Harden, the local humanitarian and homeless advocate, will be moderating the discussion. 

For those unfamiliar, here's a little background on the controversial issue.

According to John Sifton's article in The National, "A Brief History of Drones," the United States has been using unmanned aircraft for surveillance since the 1960s and '70s. Due to technological limits, the Air Force did not try to arm its drones until the late 1990s, after the Predator drone was deployed during the Kosovo conflict. An armed Predator drone was first used to kill a person in 2002, as part of the CIA's hunt for Bin Laden. Since, the Predator has been mostly replaced by the MQ-9 Reaper, a purpose-built hunter-killer, according to a 2006 USAF press release.
Drone warfare might be the future - but what kind of future is it? - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Drone warfare might be the future - but what kind of future is it?

The public debate over drones in war has been heated. There's the question about the legality of drone surveillance and missile strikes. There are also the ethical implications.

In a 2013 editorial in The Christian Science Monitor, Jack L. Amoureux said the atmosphere of fear and humiliation drone warfare and surveillance imposes on countries make any military applications ethically shaky. He said civilians in drone-targeted countries ask whether drones fight terror or constitute it. There is also the concern about civilian casualties, whether due to drone operators thinking civilians are military targets or collateral damage during a strike on an actual enemy. 

On the other hand, New York Times analyst Scott Shane said in a 2012 article that drones are ethically justified. Drone operators are safer than any pilot or on-site military personnel. He also said drones and their operators are better at identifying and killing or destroying military targets than any other tool available. Shane cites a study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London that reported civilians made up a rapidly decreasing percent of all drone strike deaths – dropping from 28 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2011. In the first half of  2012, for instance, only 3 of 152 people killed in drone strikes were civilians. For the record, Shane noted traditional military actions since 1992 had between 33 and 80 percent civilian deaths.

Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone noted in a 2012 article that there is a much larger concern: transparency. He stated drones make it far too easy for our government to kill without oversight. Drone warfare allowed our government to wage warfare in Pakistan in secret, he wrote. He compared drone operation to video games, saying drones make it too easy for the military to resort to fatal tools. Similar concerns were raised in 2002, when the US military released America's Army, a free video game that acts as a recruiting and simulation tool.

With all of these difficult questions and concerns, the panel discussion should be a thought-provoking event. For more information, check out our event page.

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