Drones: Can they be stopped before it is too late?

The proliferation of military drone technology has created a serious problem for the international arena. This situation is eerily similar to the increase of nuclear weapons programs around the world in the mid 20th century. The United States came first, and was able to dictate the norms regarding the use of nuclear weapons. This would lead to the creation of the Nuclear Taboo — no first use of nuclear weapons. This globally accepted norm kept the use in nuclear weapons in check and prevented the detonation of a nuclear bomb in a military context after WWII. The proliferation of ballistic missile systems in the 80s and 90s also created a considerable security problem. In the reading, the authors explain that “Washington took concerted efforts to control their proliferation and use through export regulations, bilateral discussions, multilateral and indirect talks, and prohibitions to prevent missile transfers.” However, the spread of drone technology has not created the same worry that nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles presented. Perhaps because they are still simply viewed as pilot-less planes and not the game changing technologies that they really are.  There has been no significant effort to control their proliferation or use. The situation with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is remarkable similar to the spread of drone warfare capabilities across the planet. What began in the U.S. has spread to almost every significant country in the world. However, unlike with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, drone warfare has been used and has become increasingly more widespread. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. conducted a large number of drone strikes across multiple war zones. President Trump has more than tripled the amount of drone strikes being carried out. Working for the Council on Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko “noted in March that Trump was carrying out a drone strike every 1.8 days, compared to every 5.4 days under Obama.” The increase of U.S. drone use in war zones could set a dangerous precedent. Just as with nuclear weapons, the United States should act as a norm setter for other countries in regards to the use of drones. The use of these technologies should both be very restrained and calculated. How will the U.S. be able to condemn other countries for offensively using drones when it is doing the same thing. Countries around the world will increasingly think about using drones for their own interests, creating a serious security threat for both the United States, and the entire international arena. With the current policy of the Trump administration regarding drone use, it could soon be too late to create any norms regarding their use. It will be fair game for everyone.

– Vlad



3 thoughts on “Drones: Can they be stopped before it is too late?

  1. I think your prediction about the precedents with drone strikes are extremely interesting. I agree that the increased usage of drone strikes could result in a dangerous precedent that could come back to bite us.

    Not only that, but I think it’s important to note that even nuclear taboos are being questioned with recent activity in North Korea. I am wondering if there is any correlation between Trump’s military policies and this specific reaction. There has no doubt been a shift in the international community as far as power is concerned.



  2. Vlad, I enjoyed your discussion on norms and drones here; I agree that it is similar to the nuclear situation in the 20th century where the US was able to set the standard for norms and usage of the weapons. However, nuclear weapons and drones are vastly different both in nature and in scale, which would mean that there would need to be different norms put in place for the use of them. Also, drones are easier to construct than nuclear weapons (I think?) Therefore, non-state actors might be able to get their hands on the technology.


  3. Vlad, like Katelyn and Kira, I enjoyed your discussion on drones and your predictions. The connection you made to the nuclear situation with the US setting the norms and usage was interesting. However, as you mentioned they differ greatly, with drones not being regarded with as much regulations and international norms. The widespread us of drones by the US has set a precedent, they are not feared the same way as nukes (for obvious reasons), however the norms surrounding them have not formed the same way. Although most non-state actors do not have drones for combat capabilities, they are making progress and even make shift drones. Since drones are easier to make than nukes, they are increasingly easier to get and thus be used. I agree with your point about how the lack of US making rules can lead to negative consequences in regards to norm formation. The US is using them without making the norms, which will be interesting to see how US drone use will continue in the Trump administration.


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