Imran Khan and combat drones have met at an important crossroad in modern world history. The Pakistanian politician and legendary hall of fame cricket player has, at age 59, dedicated the later years of his life to justice around the world. Throughout the 21st century, the beleaguered Pakistanian activist has taken the lead in a very unpopular struggle to end drone attacks around the world, and more specifically, to end U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. For taking this position, he has been labeled a Taliban sympathizer, pro-Taliban, and at times even pro Al Qaeda. But to broad brush this philanthropic pursuer of justice with a particular label or to prematurely judge him out of fear or ignorance misses a full interpretation of a humanitarian portrait committed to helping others. Khan has never once in his life supported the killing of innocent people to achieve some goal. Across the board, he has condemned every terrorist attack and brutal action by police and terrorists alike according to the website supportinrankhan.org. To root out extremism, he has a theory that involves sitting down with militant groups and actually trying to decipher why they are fighting. In reality, he’s surprised by American’s who reject his ideas, especially since in principle they are the same beliefs espoused in America’s Declaration of Independence. Specifically, Khan is enamored over the inalienable rights which all human beings are endowed with by their creator and whose protections thereof governments derive their purpose. But something quite troubling happens when Khan, a Pakistanian citizen, declares that “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is not a privilege exclusive to Americans only, but indeed a right given to all human beings anywhere and everywhere. So what then is Khan saying? Simply put, the idea that humans beings are endowed with God given rights to “life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” Khan suggests would include the belief that drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and any other part of the world are insane, immoral, illegal and what’s more counterproductive. Basing his position on the principle ideas rooted in the American Declaration of Independence, Imran Khan’s aversion to drone warfare is a matter of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and includes us all.
To explain the immoral and illegal element of his argument, Khan plainly points out that 20,000 people have been killed by drone attacks with no accountability and without the presence of independent journalist. In fact, Pakistanian officials won’t allow independent journalist in the very regions where U.S. drone strikes frequently occur. Moreover, the targeted areas are without medical facilities, and just as immoral is the fact that Pakistanian men, women and children are routinely subjected to persistent psychological trauma created by a 24/7 combat drone environment. If what Khan has said is true, there’s no need to elaborate on his other points of concern. Forcing even one Pakistanian citizen to endure such hardship goes against every principle outlined in America’s Declaration. Furthermore, for the sake of Khan’s argument; it goes against or violates principles of personal and social ethics. Ethics deals with human conduct with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions. If using unmanned, inhuman drones for the purpose of terminating the life of a guilty individual who has violated the laws of society, while inadvertently harming one or more innocent individuals, such a practice when measured by America’s “Declaration of Independence” is immoral and therefore unethical. In plain English, drone warfare is wrong; and it’s totally unacceptable to deliberately subject any innocent person to the unpredictable consequences it might produce.
However, to fully understand the Pakistanian activist we must elaborate on the insane and counterproductive points he has included in his assessment of the consequences engendered by combat drone attacks. We have already clarified that Khan’s principles are rooted in an understanding that life liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a God given human right; and that drone attacks in Pakistan have usurped this right from innocent citizens living in areas dominated by the presence of drones around the clock. But Khan significantly switches gears when elaborating on the insane and counterproductive elements, which are the result of incessant drone attacks. To briefly illuminate, when Khan says insane, what he means is that after an eight year drone campaign aimed at selective targets in Pakistan, people living in the embattled region have increasingly grown to despise their terrorizer. We see this hatred of the U.S. growing all over the Middle East. In fact, hatred of the United States seems to have become increasingly widespread.
Insanity by definition is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. For instance, the U.S. has been engaged in drone warfare since 2004, which has successfully lead to the killing of numerous Al Qaeda operatives, but at the high price of alienating more and more nations and people to completely despise the American way of life. More importantly, not only have the people living in areas under constant drone surveillance and intermittent attacks become increasingly anti-American, but U.S. policy has galvanized resentment of America throughout most nations in the Middle East. Instead of U.S. drone policy creating a sense of stability and security America’s war on terror had produced counterproductive results.
This leads us to the task of taking a close and hard look at the history of drones from their early beginning up to our present time.
The word “drone” comes from an Old English word “dran,” meaning “male honeybee.” It most likely originated out of the Greek word, ὀνοματοποιίa, which points to the sound bees make; the “buzzing.” In ancient times some living creatures were named for the sound they made. In the 16th century the name drone figuratively suggested a sense of idler or lazy worker, as male bees make no honey. However, in its broader sense the Old English also used the word dore for male bees which evolved into “Dumbledore,” or “bumblebee.” “Dore” survived in the Dutch language as “dar,” meaning “drone.” The importance of the term drone in a military sense has to do with their distinct characteristic eyes that are twice the size of worker bees and queens; though their body size is greater than that of worker bees, drones must be able to fly fast enough to accompany the queen in flight while at the same time mating with the female insect. Thus, speed and large seeing eyes specifically distinguish drone bees from other types; workers and queens. The military use of mechanical drones reflect those two qualities found in drone bees; again sight for finding their targets (reconnaissance mission), and speed in order to go undetected as well as to deliver and strike a target of war before the victim is aware it’s been targeted, and therefore unable to escape.
That’s the raw entomological description and comparative link between live and mechanical drones. Today’s combat drones have become even more sophisticated than the bumble bee insect from which their name was derived from. But not all drones are technologically equal as Saturday’s unarmed drone infiltration into Israeli airspace proved. Israel’s military was able to quickly respond to the drone launched deep into their fiercely guarded airspace. Israeli Defense Forces spotted the drone, which was not carrying any weapons or explosives, hovering over Gaza before it entered Israeli airspace. Israeli forces kept the drone under surveillance, flying alongside the aircraft until a fighter jet shot it down around 10 a.m. Saturday over the Yatir Forest, an unpopulated area near the border with the occupied West Bank. The incident, however, raised the possibility of a retaliatory response.
An Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, did not say whether the drone had flown over sensitive targets, or speculate about its mission.
“We view this incident of attempting to enter Israeli airspace very severely and we will consider our response later,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement.
It was not clear where the drone originated. Military officials, however, said it did not appear to have taken off from Gaza, which along with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Mediterranean Sea forms the western border of the Negev.
The pro-Iran Islamic militant group Hezbollah immediately became a prime suspect especially since they have previously launched drones into Israel. Last week, Israeli officials announced they had arrested an Arab citizen living in Israel on charges of spying and identifying vulnerable military targets for Hezbollah.
Israeli parliament member Miri Regev, a former chief spokesman of the military, wrote on Twitter, it was an “Iranian drone launched by Hezbollah”, referring to the Lebanese Shi’ite group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.
Correspondents say several small drones have penetrated Israeli territory in the past, but they were launched from the north.
An Israeli navy ship was damaged by an explosive drone in July 2006.
Also in 2006, Israeli forces quickly shot down a drone that Hezbollah launched into Israel. And in 2010, an Israeli warplane shot down an apparently unmanned balloon in the Negev near the country’s Dimona nuclear reactor.
Two others flew over part of northern Israel in 2004 and 2005 without being intercepted.
Most people understand very little about these unmanned aerial vehicles. The concept of the combat drones was explored first by Dr. Lee De forest, an early inventor of radio devices. Dr. Forest’s idea was first published in an article found in a 1940 publication of “Popular Mechanics” Magazine, called “Robot Television Bomber.” The article’s opening paragraph states: “A Robot bombing plane, literally a flying bomb with a mechanical eye for seeking out its target, is the proposal of Dr. Lee De Forest and U.A. Sanabria, Chicago television engineer, who believe that such planes, built at an approximate cost of $10,000 each, would be a simple and practical method of greatly increasing the accuracy of aerial bombardment.”
“In flight, such a plane would be steered and operated by radio from a control plane that could remain as far as ten miles away.”
It was a fascinating idea back then and remains quite captivating today.
Ironically, during the 1980s, Iran used a simple drone capable of holding six RPG-7 rounds in combat in the Iran-Iraq War. An RPG-7 is a Russian weapon that is widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The initials RPG represents three Russian words Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot (Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомет) which simply translates into the English words; “rocket-propelled grenade.” Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the first time a combat drone was used in war was the in the “Iran-Iraq War.”
That said; the U.S. has taken drone technology to another level. Whether that’s good or bad we will visit at the close of this article. It was President Barack Obama that history will show first began to maximize their potential uses and effectiveness in combat.
He recently acknowledged that the U.S. used UVAs to attack high-value terrorist targets on Pakistan’s territory.
It may be rarely known, but “drones” come in numerous shapes and sizes, and have a wide range of potential civilian and scientific uses, including law-enforcement and industrial monitoring. However, most people familiar with these pilotless planes understand their military purposes (reconnaissance and combat operations).
While drones have been developed for decades by various countries, they came to their recent military prominence due to two factors: (1) technological advances allowing unmanned flying objects to be accurately guided over large distances and (2) better intelligence gathering on the ground, which makes it possible to pinpoint and strike high-value military targets while keeping civilian casualties and other collateral damage as low as possible.
Unofficial accounts of Obama’s use of UAVs in America’s war on terror suggests that 210 drone strikes were reported to have occurred in Pakistan’s tribal belt from 2009 through 2011. This activities is central to Imran Khan’s protests and struggle with the Pakistanian government.
While many countries are attempting to manufacture drones, most of them are either technologically unsophisticated or are being used strictly for civilian purposes.
Reportedly, the U.S. and Israel are the two most important manufacturers of military drones, with the United States being both the largest producer and the most frequent user of the aircraft.
Depending on type; costs of these deadly weapons range from $4.5 million-$30 million per unit. The Predator is on the low end of price range while the Reaper is the most expensive model.
Though Israel was the first country to develop military drone technology following the 1973 Arab Israeli war, the U.S. military presently possesses more than 7,000 aerial drones.
In 2010, Iran claimed to have successfully tested a four meters long, 1,000 kilometer range combat drone called the Karrar. Pakistan and India also say they possess combat-capable drones, but most experts believe drones manufactured by these countries are significantly inferior in almost all technological aspects when compared to those produced in the U.S.
Many other countries, including world powers Russia and China, have been trying to manufacture deployable drones for a long time. But technological difficulties and a lack of accurate intelligence gathering capabilities imposes limits on the effectiveness of their use.
With Tensions dramatically escalating in the Middle East in recent weeks, with Netanyahu warning the United Nations two weeks ago that Iran must be stopped from obtaining a nuclear weapon, with Saturday’s apparent drone attack, and with Khan’s assertion that U.S. drones are prompting more tribesmen to join various branches of the Pakistani Taliban, it is perhaps important to know what these weapons can do and who has them.
A major war in the Middle East seems not only closer but inevitable when you consider recent rhetoric from Eastern leaders.
Obama made clear that his primary concern is for the safety of Americans.
“When it comes to our national security decisions — any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people,” Obama said. “And I am going to block out – any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis — on these issues. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”
The fact of the matter is that drones are so effective in killing their programmed targets, ultimately no nation or its citizens will be safe from their continued use. It is not just nation states that have shown an interest in drones. There have been unconfirmed reports that Hizballah used a drone in the 2006 war in Lebanon. Al-Qaeda was also once reportedly looking into the possibility of using UAVs.
Common sense at least tells us to have a conversation about the potential threat that a widespread drone war would pose and the potential nuclear war that could follow such a scenario.
Though Khan doesn’t make these points, nonetheless, I’ve drawn attention to other factors that surrounding the use of combat drones in order to reach hardliners that fail to understand that our Declaration of Independence crosses all social divides.
Khan’s willingness and commitment to human rights as stated in the United States Declaration of Independence should be enough to take inventory of our own belief in the document. Do our actions demonstrate that we believe all men have the right to freely pursue “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness? Have we thought about the effect combat drones have on the innocent people reported to have been victimized by U.S. drone campaigns conducted in Pakistan. Ultimately, American’s and our human brothers and sisters across the globe from various cultures and ethnic backgrounds should have the same freedom we ourselves enjoy; especially the freedom to say if we choose, drone warfare may not be such a good idea.
After all, has anyone forgotten the old adage that says he who lives by the gun shall die by the gun? I’m not mentioning any names but I would suggest that the same adage applies to nations as well. Hence, a nation that lives by the gun shall die by the gun.