Koons: Let's have the conversation about drones


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America uses unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — across the world for surveillance and to kill people designated to be our enemies, terrorists. Drones are useful because Americans are not put at risk during missions. They fly into areas covertly thousands of feet above the heads of the people below, they enter countries that America isn’t in conflict with — it’s been easier to smooth over diplomatic relations after drone incursions than it would be to explain assassinations by a U.S. SEAL team — and up until recently, the entire program has been deniable by our government.

Why are people concerned if there are such benefits? Drones represent a dangerous future; other countries and organizations can just as easily begin secret drone flights into America to drop bombs on us.

Sometimes having capabilities but only threatening their use is the best option. The world has benefitted from the reluctance of sane leaders to use nuclear weapons. Is America prepared to shepherd in a future where untraceable bombs drop from the sky? We need to understand that by using drones as freely as we do, we are certainly moving our enemies and our allies toward the realization that they must use them as well.

Americans should care about the decisions our government makes on our behalf. Yes, using drones may create generations of enemies. Is there better propaganda for Al Qaeda than “the Great Satan” dropping unannounced and unexpected hell from the sky in dozens of countries resulting in the massacre of foreign civilians in order to eliminate a single suspected terrorist?

America has always held itself to be the “shining city on the hill.” Many have trouble with enhanced interrogation because, regardless of efficacy, it seems like something the villain of the story does and not the hero. And isn’t America the hero?

If our instinctive reaction to watching Vietnam war movies with American soldiers going mad and gunning down villages of women and children is revulsion, how can we react differently to bombing real women and children in the Middle East and Africa?

The issue of using drones is complicated but important.

We cannot be naïve and cede such a decision to a secretive few; it is too consequential to be thought of merely as a war tactic.  History is full of citizens trusting governments to make well-meaning war decisions that ran counter to the society’s moral identity.

Our society has been notified so we cannot feign surprise later. We must take responsibility — let’s have the conversation now.

Andy Koons
The Daily Iowan Guest Columnist

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