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Monday, July 4, 2022


The Octogenarian: drones drones drones


Graphic by Courtney Williams/The Cougar

I am against war.  I also recognize that we, as a nation, have enemies, and it sometimes takes lethal action to stop the danger from those enemies.

There are many who oppose the American drone program because of civilian deaths. In the short history of air warfare, which causes civilian death, the United States was a latecomer into the saturation-bombing aspect of warfare. But, as in many things, we perfected it and caught up.

Today a single aircraft can deliver the payload that took a fleet of bombers to deliver in World War II, so air strikes can be deadly.

War is wrong. Throughout history, innocent civilians or non-combatants have died and suffered in war.  It is sad, but true.

You may not have noticed but, for the first time in the lifetime of most of my fellow students, we are not getting weekly reports of the names of American Service Members killed in action in foreign countries.

But, we are still at war.

There are nation-backed groups and organizations around the world who want to kill you as an American, a Christian, a Jew, a Sunni, a Shiite, because you are a non-subservient female or maybe even because you have blue eyes.

So, if we have to fight those groups, why do I like the drone?

Well, it’s personal. In 1952, I was sitting in a U.S. Air Force Trailer late at night on a mountain in Germany called Schwarzenborne. I was involved in communicating with the crew of an RB26, a World War II, old B26 converted two-engine bomber with a three man crew.

According to the control information I was following, that airplane and crew was 6,000 feet over Czechoslovakia some 16 miles behind the iron curtain taking pictures of Soviet military activity.

Suddenly, we had a mayday call from the plane. He was in trouble.  We had no idea what the problem was, but we gave the plane an immediate vector, or change of direction, toward Rheine Mein Air Base in Germany and turned him over to their control.

We were out of the picture and had our own work to do.  I have always been curious as to the fate of the three man American crew of that airplane. I have always assumed that they made it into the U.S. Air Base. But if they hadn’t, then three American families would have been visited by men in blue uniforms to inform them that their government was sorry, but their loved ones wouldn’t be coming home.

The great thing about a drone mission is, if the mission goes wrong, and the drone goes down over enemy territory, the three man crew on an aircraft carrier or in Nevada packs up their gear and goes about their normal existence, even home to their family.

Human beings die in war.  Innocent people suffer.  If a terrorist blows himself up and kills unsuspecting humans along with him, it is horrible.  If a drone kills that terrorist and his cohorts before he gets to act but winds up killing innocent civilians along with him, it is horrible.

There is a choice.  Is there a preference?

Opinion columnist Ken Levin is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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