October 6th, 2012
08:23 PM ET

Letters to the President #1356: 'An unknown drone'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is possibly reading this letter at this very moment. Probably not, but maybe.

Dear Mr. President,

Israel shot down a drone, and no one seems to know which nation was controlling it. So I suppose people all over the world must now contemplate a new complication in our international affairs: How do we decide what a fair fight is, if we don't even know for sure who is fighting?

I'm sure soon enough we'll know who launched this drone, but what about the next one? What about when nations get better and better at this type of thing? Think about this for a moment.

The world is already a fairly unstable place at times. Some parts of it are as shaky as a stilt walker in a rowboat. Drones have already raised some questions about ethics and safety when they are operated by major countries.

Imagine the impact if they start falling more and more into the hands of smaller nations which may not feel they have much to lose in launching a robotic assassin, especially if they think no one will know its origin.

North Korea. Iran. You name it. There are plenty of places where the idea of an unmanned and potentially untraceable drone wreaking havoc might appeal to the powers.

And they might use them in unexpected ways. If you are North Korea, for example, and you are under pressure over some issue, a drone that spurs a conflict between Pakistan and India to draw away the world's attention might be useful. Likewise if a small terrorist cell obtained one, they could use it not so much to attack their foes, as to pit their enemies against each other.

Not sure what to do about any of this, but it is on my mind on this quiet Saturday. Give me a call if you want to chat it over.


soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Steve Golddberg

    Speaking of oops! I meanth Tom, not Tim. Sorry. Steve

    October 7, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  2. Steve Golddberg

    Scary, hah Tim? Something I learned many years ago - arguably my most poingnant mantra - is that everything in life is a trade-off, there are no free rides. If, as in the use of drones, the downside isn't evident, lost amid the excitement of having seemingly come up with the panacea for eliminating our elusive mass murderous enemies, then you should definitely look for it, cause it is there, and sure as hell it will emerge. And by that (this) point, you can't, as they say, put the genie back in the bottle. Add another "oops!" to the list of surprise backfires. The backfires and the surprises, unfortunately, were very avoidable.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:45 am |