Commentary: The Problem With Drones

When it comes to increasing safety domestically or on the “battlefields” of terrorism, we need more humans involved, not less.

Posted: 02/13/2013 02:46 PM EST

On the issues of gun violence and employment, President Obama’s State of the Union speech hit home with weary Americans who have been traumatized by recent events. But amid the hopeful rhetoric, there was another message that laid a path for America’s military future that could have frightening effects for both our enemies and our own populations here at home.

First of all, if you weren’t already aware, although the U.S. is scaling back military engagement in places like Afghanistan, the country has become firmly entrenched in several countries on the African continent in pursuit of various Islamist groups purported to be affiliates of al Qaeda.

Obama’s State of the Union address hinted at the increasing dependence on drones when he assured the American public that these new points of military engagement would not necessitate sending “tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations,” but instead require our “direct action.”

While it’s nice to see more of our own remain safe and alive at home, the answer to an increase in aggression shouldn’t be a remote control.

War is war and killing is just that. Drone attacks are not the neat and tidy method of wiping out terrorism that they have been portrayed to be by the government. Instead, drone use has been regularly blamed for the mistaken killings of innocent people and, in areas where drones are regularly deployed, created a stifling atmosphere of fear and terror — the precise two evils the drones have been sent to keep from occurring here.

And even if you care nothing for the havoc drones create abroad, there is another concern: the pervasive use and acceptance of drones overall means that they are on their way to your neighborhood soon.

Although unconfirmed by the Los Angeles Police Department, a U.K. paper reported that drones were being used to track down rogue former cop Christopher Dorner.

According to the paper, a police official said, “the thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

The frenzy surrounding Dorner’s manhunt led to the shooting of two women who were completely unassociated with Dorner and officers opened fire on a random man driving a car believed to belong to the fugitive. The LAPD has given summary apologies for both incidents. But the dry responses don’t edge near what they should be given that their rash behavior put innocent lives in jeopardy.

For members of populations who are routinely subjected to racial profiling and fatal cases of mistaken identity, a shift to more detached, high-tech forms of police surveillance could give law enforcement even more excuses to shrug their shoulders when the wrong person is detained or killed for a crime they did not commit.

When it comes to increasing safety domestically or on the “battlefields” of terrorism, we need more humanity involved, not less. Hopefully, it won’t take an American drone tragedy to happen before we appreciate the innocent lives we are risking elsewhere.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Erik Hildebrandt/Northrop Grumman/Handout)

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