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Why Troops Don't Trust Drones

The "Warm Fuzzy" Problem

A Predator drone flies in California, February 2013. Reuters

The movement toward unmanned weapons systems seems inevitable. In a recent discussion with Defense News, Bradford Tousley, the director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), explained that unmanned technology is the “natural evolutionary path” in the future of warfare. That view is widely shared among defense policy experts. Unmanned and autonomous weapons systems have been central to the Department of Defense’s Third Offset Strategy, which calls for greater investments in these technologies to compete with rivals such as China. Today, each branch of the U.S. military is investing heavily in the research, development, and use of autonomous and unmanned systems.

Perhaps the best known of these new weapons systems are unmanned aerial vehicles—known as UAVs in the military but colloquially referred to as drones. Since 2002, the United States has carried out almost 800 drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen; since 2015,

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