The Next Drone Wars

Preparing for Proliferation

A drone in Lima, March 5, 2014. Mariana Bazo / Courtesy Reuters

During World War II, a top commander in what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, developed a new way to attack U-boat stations and other heavily fortified German positions: he turned old B-17 and B-24 bombers into remotely piloted aircraft and loaded them with explosives. “If you can get mechanical machines to do this,” Arnold wrote in a memo to his staff, “you are saving lives at the outset.” The missions had a poor track record, but that did not deter Arnold from declaring in 1945 that “the next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all.”

Nearly seven decades later, Arnold’s prophecy is slowly being realized: armed drones are starting to rule the skies. So far, the United States has had a relative monopoly over the use of such drones, but it cannot count on maintaining that for

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