Drone Wars: Is It Justified?

National security is expensive. In fact, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the U.S. $6 trillion. That figure includes both combat and long-term costs for medical care, disability compensation, veteran’s compensation, and army replenishment. Israel, who is locked-in a prolonged war with Palestinian terrorists, seemingly discovered weaponry that is both militarily mighty and economically efficient. Its continued widespread use can be a military game-changer. That weaponry is the drone.

Often times, war is a zero-sum game. That is, in balancing the human and economic costs of war versus the desired objective of the war, the cost of war may be too high. Even if one side achieves its objective, its gain may not justify, or negate, the cost of achieving that objective. Therefore, in determining whether to enter a conflict, each side must consider its cost of war even with the belief that victory is highly probable.

If, however, the war contains a significant national security interest then the cost of war is never too high and not a zero-sum equation. The price is never too high for basic survival. Similarly, humanitarian concerns also factor into war costs, whereby those concerns may tip the balance in favor of war, regardless of cost. These decisions are based on a variety of factors, including the nature of the enemy, geographic distance, objective, and other logistical circumstances.

Difficulty arises when a situation has questionable national security objectives balanced against economic costs. Do the economic costs blind policy makers to the extent that national security is compromised? Does the potential loss of human life justifiably outweigh a declaration of war? Or is this a legitimate national security or humanitarian concern that should compel this nation to war, regardless of cost?

Drone use contributes to this discussion. Drones, especially weaponized drones, balance this equation because of their dramatically lower costs, both human and economic. Unmanned reconnaissance drones can gather information without human risk and at lower price, thereby supplying critical information about enemy positions. Unmanned weaponized drones can damage or eliminate enemy combatants and positions while its use costs a third of fighter jets. This technology provides an economical and prophylactic approach that changes how parties balance economic responsibility with war considerations.

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), the Israeli government’s commercial and military aircraft developer, is the largest exporter of drones and drone technology in the world. IAI provides both drones and drone training to armies across the world. The American military used many Israeli-made drones in its war in Afghanistan; IAI sold $500 million worth of drones each to Brazil and India between 2005-13. And the demand continues to rise.

Through the use of drones, Israel added a powerful weapon in its war against Palestinian terror. Through drones, Israel spies on Palestinian terrorist activity without risk of human life. Those drones can pinpoint terrorists and their arms deployment before they attack Israelis. Drones send information to Israeli army officials, who use that information for national security purposes (specific information about weaponized Israeli drones is unclear). Due to their economical and resourceful qualities the Israeli army can more easily conduct surveillance of its enemies.

Worldwide, increasing drone use can trigger more war as the economic equation shifts for parties considering war. Drones can accomplish what more expensive and manned fighter jets accomplish, thereby removing an obstacle to giving war a green light. In turn, increased war leads to increased drone purchase, which economically benefits IAI and Israel.

Recapping, drones provide armies a cheaper and less dangerous alternative. With Israel at the forefront of drone technology, it has much to gain with expanding drone use. Accelerated drone use is a source of income for Israel. However, accelerated drone use likely furthers war, as drones change military economics and does not risk human life. Does Israel’s economic gain justify a possible surge in military conflict?

About the Author
Ari Mushell works in the banking industry.
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