by Thomas Donnelly
February 04, 2014
Unmanned systems have captured the public imagination and excited military futurists. While there’s no question that unmanned systems have played a large role in the counterterrorism campaign of the past decade, it’s critical to distinguish between which features of the drone war are contingent and thus likely to be transitory and which are indicative of a larger trend. What may prove most permanent is the way in which the use of unmanned systems is changing American and Western attitudes about the use of military power. While the number of drone strikes in Pakistan has declined since 2010, the attraction of a technology that combines seeming precision and low-risk is understandable. To some, this reduction in risk sparks fears about the dehumanization of combat. Yet, the use of unmanned systems has made war less bloody. However, it’s not clear whether drones increase the overall effectiveness of American military campaigns.