War is never at the top of anybody’s to-do list. Each year, hundreds, if not thousands, of American servicemen are wounded or impacted by the horrors of war. Drone strikes are a necessary tool in ending conflicts as soon as possible with minimal collateral damage. Though there are many doubts regarding the use of unmanned drones in combat, the facts remain: drone strikes are more efficient at eliminating high-priority targets than conventional methods and should be accepted as a legitimate form of combat.
One of the foremost arguments against drones is that they cause unneeded collateral damage. Tossing any bomb will obviously result in unintended damage and casualties, but drones actually cause far fewer unintentional deaths than people would like to believe, according to a study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Drone strikes have killed a total of about three thousand people. In those three thousand, there were about 500 civilian casualties—translating to a 17 percent civilian-death ratio. While this number seems high, drones are in fact significantly more accurate than previous means. Comparatively in the Iraq War, records show that before drones were implemented a staggering 34 percent of deaths were civilians.
In addition to causing less collateral damage, drones help protect the lives of American soldiers.
From 2003 to 2009, 129 helicopters and 24 fixed-wing aircrafts were lost in the Iraq war, costing 300 American servicemen their lives and costing the government material damage worth billions of dollars, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense. Comparatively, between 2001 and 2010 there have been 79 reported American drone crashes, costing the military only a few hundred million dollars, and more importantly, no casualties. Though the number of lost planes cannot be exactly compared to the number of lost drones due to the different rates of use, drone usage by the military has undeniably saved many American lives and money.
Besides minimizing the risk a soldier faces and being effective at their job, drones are also cheaper. The average MQ-9 Reaper drone used today costs an average of 16 million dollars, and the older MQ-1 Predator drone costs a mere four million dollars. These numbers may seem extravagant, but compared to the cost of F-22 and F-35 fighter jets ($150 million and $200 million apiece respectively), it’s a very cheap price.
Even though drones offer all of these benefits, public opinion remains divided. Among the biggest issues are that drones can be used for other purposes besides warfare, namely surveillance. There is concern about law enforcement using drones to spy on people and bypassing privacy laws, but with proper laws and regulation those problems really are not concerns. Already, states are pushing forward bills that make it illegal to use a drone to gather evidence without a liable warrant.
While drones certainly aren’t the perfect solution in every situation, too many myths of their operations are overblown. Drones protect American people, military personnel and interests. Outlawing drone strikes severely hampers our military’s ability to safely take out specific targets, and may force us to resort to methods that in fact inflict more collateral damage. A controlled and regulated drone program is beneficial to our security and to our nation’s economy.
—Wang, a senior, is a Copy Editor.