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On this week's Level Talk, I talk to Laurie Calhoun, the author of the book: "We Kill Because We Can: From Soldering to Assassination in the Drone Age", about the scale, scope and consequences of the drone program. Also joining me is Professor David Stupples, Director of Electronic Warfare Systems Research, of the City University of London.
The subject of our conversation covers what's called "Lethal Creep." Laurie Calhoun describes how the use of drones used to be quite limited but over the course of the 21st century, their use has increased to the point where they are now a standard operating procedure. One major problem is that there are many different parties involved in drawing up the "kill lists" of targets, including those who have financial incentives in participation. Increasingly, drones seem to be used in countries that are not at war with the US, thus the difference between drone warfare and "black ops" becomes increasingly blurred. One of the main problems, Professor Calhoun points out, is that drones create more terrorists than they eliminate through fear and retribution.
Professor Stupples says that most of the bombs were dropped in accordance with UN resolutions, and in support of ground troops such as Kurdish and Iraqi troops. Furthermore the weapons, he says, are now very smart, and use drone intelligence, so the targeting is quite precise. He believes that the killing of innocent people is probably very limited. Laurie Calhoun adamantly disagrees with this, saying a report compiled in 2104 reveals that in pursuit of 41 main targets, 1,147 people were eliminated, a lot of people being killed because they are deemed guilty by association. Professor Stupples says that there is no proof for these figures but Calhoun argues that the quality of target selection can be seen by the number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who actually turned out to be innocent.
The discussion also focuses on the future — whether drones will become fully automated thus not requiring a human operator at all. Professor Stupples says that it is very unlikely that technology will get that far in the foreseeable future. The possibility of hacking drones is discussed; Professor Stupples considers that this is not likely because of the sophistication of communication systems. Also discussed is the spread of the use of drones to almost all countries, as the technology becomes cheaper and drones could also be used to carry contaminants, such as biological weapons.
The conclusion reached was that far-reaching public debate is still very much needed on this issue.
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