US Drone Use Setting Off New Global Arms Race

The proliferation of drone technology is, justifiably but hypocritically, generating concern in Washington

by John Glaser, January 09, 2013

With the US’s dramatic expansion of drone use for both surveillance and targeted bombings, a veritable arms race in unmanned aerial vehicles has begun, prompting concern from some in Washington worried about international rivals using drones like the US does.

“The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress,” USA Today reports.

Both China and Japan are working on sophisticated drone technology as their territorial disputes get more intense. Pakistan is also attempting to acquire armed drone systems, apparently with help from China. And Iran is known to have fielded their own drones.

Even the United Nations has expressed interest in acquiring their own drones, reportedly for use in peacekeeping missions.

The proliferation of drone technology is justifiably generating some concern in Washington. The prospect of other countries using drones in the same lawless, lethal, unaccountable way the US has is unnerving to Americans, who have long believed they should not be subject to the rules everybody else must follow.

“When we possess such weaponry, it turns out there is nothing unnerving or disturbing, apocalyptic or dystopian about it,” Tom Engelhardt observes in Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

But “when the first Iranian or Russian or Chinese missile-armed drones start knocking off their chosen sets of ‘terrorists,’ we won’t like it one bit,” Engelhardt warns. “Then let’s see what we think about the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies—and anyone else in the vicinity—by drone.”

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