Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Drones Are Too Easy

As part of her Nieman Fellowship, all-time favorite Maggie Koerth-Baker today attended a talk by John Kaag of the University of Massachusetts–Lowell at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Kaag's topic was the moral hazard of drones, as used by the U.S. military.

Koerth-Baker tweeted a series of paraphrases of Kaag's talk, and I wanted to quote enough of them to get his main points across. (I have edited slightly to expand some of her Twitter abbreviations.)

Drones aren't qualitatively different than a sniper. But they make it more likely people will take the military option as a first resort.

Question of drones is really about older question of expediency vs. morality. Is convenience a virtue?

The easy [military] option should be morally suspect. Because, with hard options, there are other reasons to question already. Equalizing critique.

Drones undo the theory of democracies = peace. Instead of avoiding war, drones give democracy the option of just doing war more "cleanly."

Polling shows that Americans don't know much about drones. Often call them "illegal." Are still in favor of them.

Polls change when you emphasize distinction and proportionality in drone discussion. THEN most Americans are against them.

Americans care about killing civilians. Way more than formal normative structures of war crimes and legal behavior.
I think the Berkman Center will have video of Kaag's talk up soon. (They were running a livestream during the event.)

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