I Was Minutes Away From Ordering a Drone Strike on an 'Insurgent' ... Until I Realized It Was Just a Child at Play
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During my time in Afghanistan, drones were primarily supplied by the US as our drone capability was miniscule in comparison. The British military still relies on US support, only owning about five armed drones. They have been busy, though: as of May 2012, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed these had flown a total of 34,750 hours, and fired 281 missiles and laser-guided bombs.
With continued cuts to the British army's personnel levels, it isn't hard to envisage drones increasingly replacing boots on the ground. And since the UK already has the world's highest number of CCTV cameras, the intrusion of drones into surveillance Britain doesn't require much imagination.
Technological advancements in warfare don't have a good track record in terms of unintended consequences. As Chris Hedges reveals in his book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, an estimated 62 million civilians perished in the 20th century's wars – "nearly 20 million more than the 43 million military personnel killed".
Will the 21st century repeat such foolish tragedy? Many years still remain. I'd argue we should err on the side of caution and remain immensely wary of drones.
James Jeffrey is a British journalist based in the United States, where he graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, in May 2012. He left the British army as a captain in April 2010, having served over nine years in the Queen's Royal Lancers, including operational tours in Kosovo (2002), Iraq (2004, 2006) and Afghanistan (2009)