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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obama’s Weapon Of Choice In War: The Drone

A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in Afghanistan in June 2010. (AP)

A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in Afghanistan in June 2010. (AP)

For the Obama administration, the essential weapon of war has become the drone. More than 1,000 pilots control them with joysticks from offices here in this country, using them over Libya last year, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA has also used them to kill militants in Pakistan and Yemen, where a CIA drone killed American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last year, on what some critics call an illegal mission.

The thinking is drones reduce the cost of war and the risk to troops on the ground, but there’s a growing debate in military circles about the consequences. Will enemies use them against us? It’s thought that China and Russia may have the latest U.S. drone technology, after a drone crashed or was brought down in Iran. And military psychologists say flying drones can provoke an “existential conflict” in pilots because they’re torn over whether they’re doing the right thing.

It’s a conflict that just might be a new mental disorder for a new kind of warfare.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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