Rich Lowry: Stop worrying and learn to love the drone

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Just when I thought nobody cared about drones, National Review’s Rich Lowry comes out with a column arguing that the concern is overwrought.

He writes:

Drones are coming no matter what. They will be too inexpensive and too useful to ignore. FedEx and UPS are interested in using drones to fly cargo. Farmers have used drones to monitor their crops. The market for drones, now almost $6 billion, is expected to double in the next ten years, according to the New York Times. Lockheed Martin is developing a tiny drone inspired by the aerodynamics of a maple seed that could fly around inside buildings.

The argument that there are commercial uses for the technology is a good one. Moreover, he essentially adopts the, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” line of argument — which is to say that drones are merely a neutral tool — that they could be used for good or evil (depending).

But then he adds:

As drones proliferate for commercial and other private uses, it is foolish to expect law enforcement to forgo them. Already, the Border Patrol uses drones down at the border. One day we will marvel that there was a time when a police drone wasn’t first on the scene of a shooting. Or a time when we had high-speed car chases, endangering everyone else on the road, instead of a drone following the suspect from the air.

(Emphasis mine.)

Lowry’s probably right that resistance is futile. But he’s wrong to suggest that Americans should embrace such technology for law enforcement (and security state) reasons. A drone is a neutral tool, yes. But it’s also an immensely powerful one, and Americans — already worried about the militarization of local police — should be skeptical about the use of drones here at home.

Here’s a comparison. Americans are fine with guns — an understatement, to be sure — but how would they feel about a crossing guard — or even a beat cop — wielding an assault rifle? Just because drones don’t kill people — missiles do! — doesn’t mean the American public should welcome Big Brother with open arms.

Matt K. Lewis