I’ve been mulling over the implications if terrorists ever get drones. The first step, inevitably, will be the proliferation of drone technology to other governments. According to today’s Washington Post, this process is already off to a good start. It front-paged a report on how quite a few other countries have elevated the development and construction of a capacity to build and deploy their own drones to the top of their own military priority lists.
It was inevitable. Every breakthrough in military technology, from bronze to cavalry to machine guns to nukes, has given the inventing society a temporary edge that was rapidly offset when rival societies glommed onto the good thing. The arms race is an established principle. And here we go again, with the added flourish that now the latest fashion in the ongoing quest for new ways of killing each other is tailor-made for asymmetric warfare, which means that sooner or later, drones may be used against us by terrorists.
One problem is that the more highly developed a country, the juicier the targets it presents for enemies using the principles of asymmetric warfare. We developed this handy dandy new toy and are squandering the temporary advantage it gives us by blasting away at a few guys in turbans in remote mountain villages in the AfPak border region. When adversaries of whatever stripe get to possess them, will we have to put not only our military command centers deep underground, but also our President and his Cabinet and the Supreme Court? (Never mind Congress, at least if it stays the way it is nowadays it will hardly be worth the effort).
The other neat feature of our latest toy is that unlike nukes, drones require technology that will be relatively hard to control, and will therefore be relatively accessible to terrorists as opposed to established governments. The more highly developed nations have managed to hold the line on nuclear proliferation, at least for keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists, as far as we know. Can we expect similar success when the terrorist drone problem hits the fan, or threatens to? This technology will be much harder to control.
One of these days our nation will wake up to the fact that the present tempest in a tea party pot is not a truly vital interest, when we face other challenges that are. Will we wake up in a timely fashion, or will we wake up dead?