The bold conversation the U.S. public and officials ought to have now has a different focus.
Few new technologies are as closely identified with American counterterrorism, or have proven as controversial, as drones. These unmanned aerial vehicles are not necessarily military; increasingly, drones are used by civilian law enforcement, and may soon be used to provide wireless service in Africa or for instant deliveries across the United States. Even these civilian uses raise important privacy questions. But it is drones' emergence as a missile platform that has made them such a lightning rod for criticism and human rights anxiety. Increasingly, critics worry that the technology has lowered the costs of war and that their use carries deceptively heavy burdens for operators.