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The Drone That Fell From the Sky: What a Busted Robot Airplane Tells Us About the American Empire in 2012 and Beyond

The drone increasingly looks less like a winning weapon than a machine for generating opposition and enemies.

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While human and mechanical errors are inherent in the operation of any type of machinery, few commentators have focused significant attention on the full spectrum of drone flaws and limitations.  For more than a decade, remotely piloted aircraft have been a mainstay of U.S. military operations and the tempo of drone operations continues to rise yearly, but relatively little has been written about drone defects or the limits and hazards of drone operations. 

Perhaps the Air Force is beginning to worry about when this will change.  After years of regularly ushering reporters through drone operations at Creech Air Force Base and getting a flood of glowing, even  awestruck, publicity about the glories of drones and drone pilots, this year, without explanation, it  shut down press access to the program, moving robotic warfare deeper into the shadows. 

The recent losses of the Pentagon’s robot Sentinel in Iran, the Reaper in the Seychelles, and the Predator in Kandahar, however, offer a window into a future in which the global skies will be filled with drones that may prove far less wondrous than Americans have been led to believe.  The United States could turn out to be relying on a fleet of robots with wings of clay.

 Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture , runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November.

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Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a senior editor at AlterNet. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso).

 You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook

 
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