Droning on: American strategic myopia toward unmanned aerial systems
Cabello, Carlos S.
Strawser, Bradley Jay
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Throughout the past decade of wars, the U.S. has deployed unmanned aerial systems, commonly referred to as drones, from Africa to Asia collecting intelligence and targeting adversaries. The nation now stands at a crossroad seeking to develop future American drone policy against an evolving threat while at the same time shaping global norms. The past decade of American drone use focused on short-term benefits, intelligence collection and lethal targeting, rather than on the long-term consequences of technology diffusion, or ethical and legal frameworks. Myopic drone strategies threaten to establish a global precedent that could undermine the stability of international relations, as state and non-state actors (SANSA) have begun to build, arm, and operate lethal unmanned systems at an alarming rate. Unmanned technology development and usage is outpacing international norms, regulations, and policies. These systems will usher in an era of unrestricted drone usage unless international regulations and standards are developed. This thesis examines whether American drone strategy is myopic and whether it is creating a dangerous international precedent. A qualitative analysis will identify the short-term benefits and long-term consequences of U.S. drone strategy, focusing on unmanned technology diffusion, ethical justifications, and legal frameworks. Examining American drone strategy can help explain why a myopic policy may be beneficial in the short-term, yet may increase threats to national interests in the long-term. The thesis concludes with an assessment of whether strategic myopia has already set a dangerous international precedent, which SANSA will use to justify their future drone programs.
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