The Wrong Hands

I was listening to NPR the other day and they were discussing military drone strikes. The host brought up the possibility of drones either falling into enemy hands through accident or being sold to terrorists and then being used against Americans. The guest (I’m sorry, I missed the beginning of the show and don’t know his name) made a comment to the effect that yes, the threat of drones falling into the wrong hands is a growing concern.

The words that latched on to my mind in his reply were “the wrong hands”. It gnawed at me, and as I reflected I realized why. It implies that our hands, i.e. the United States’ hands, are the “right” hands for such a weapon. Of course, this is because we are Americans and thus presumably consider anyone else’s hands the wrong hands for any kind of weapon. But I reject the premise that there exist “right” hands for a flying killer robot.

The person who would conceive such a thing has the wrong hands. These machines were designed, built, and are used daily by people with the wrong hands. Anyone who thinks drones are a good idea and an excellent tool has, in my mind, the wrong hands.

Wars have always happened, and will likely always happen. But they’re never a good thing. Luckily, they are limited due to the terrible human cost they produce. Lives lost, or destroyed, due to the horrors of war inevitably produce a pressure, especially in democratic societies, for wars to end. They become less and less popular until rulers are forced to bring troops home and stop the fighting. But drones exist for one reason: to remove the human cost of war.

The war in Iraq lasted ten years. The war in Afghanistan is ongoing for eleven years. And we appear on the brink of starting another war with Iran. And this is with only the reduced human cost (to us) stemming from a giant technological advantage over those countries. Imagine how life will be once we have removed that cost entirely. We will live in a state of perpetual and popular war. Someone does something we don’t like, send in the drones. Until, of course, others (those with “wrong” hands) have drones too.

There’s an episode of the series Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled “The Arsenal of Freedom”. In it, the crew of the Enterprise-D discover a planet where they developed and sold programmable drones for use in war. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you where a science fiction show was going with this: all the people were gone, and only the killer robots remained. There are lots of sci-fi shows that have this premise of course, but “Freedom” hits closest to home in my view, because it’s so close to what is happening right now. Sure, fiction exaggerates. I don’t think our drones are going to come alive and kill us all. But what they are doing and will continue to do is foster a world environment in which you can kill without risk to yourself. And that is a dangerous and evil world in which to live.

The genie’s out of the bottle now, as it is with respect to nuclear weapons. We can’t un-invent military drones. All we can do is use our voices to deplore and discourage their use. It’s up to us to be the responsible ones, those of us who are against perpetual and senseless violence. We, who would never use drones, are the only ones with the “right” hands.


2 Responses

  1. Great post. I totally agree. Ron Paul metioned the golden rule the other day and I think we should all reflect on that.

    • Indeed. Thanks for your comment and for stopping by! -JDC

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