Everyone's got a drone, or so it seems.
It wasn't long ago that the U.S. had a monopoly on drones, but that is no longer the case. In fact, Israel -- not the U.S. -- is reportedly the world's largest exporter of drones, selling Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the technology to build them to Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, and most recently to Azerbaijan as part of a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of drones.
In 2004, 41 countries had acquired UAVs according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. As of 2011, the number climbed to at least 76 countries. While only a small number of them have armed drones, many are beginning to invest in weaponizing drones.
In the Middle East, Iran is developing its own domestically produced drones, and taking every opportunity to boast about them, including showing off a new attack hovercraft that can launch drones and missiles, or so they claim. Hezbollah, among the most innovative non-state armed militant groups, has sent Ayoub, an Iranian built drone 35 miles into Israel's airspace, effectively challenging the Us and its allies.
When discussing the threat to security in the Middle East, the mainstream media focuses on nuclear weapons and terrorism. But remain effectively silent on drones.
Yet, we recently learned that on November 1 two Russian-made Iranian warplanes shot at an American military surveillance drone flying over the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran, marking the first known instance of Iranian jets firing at a U.S. drone.
Do these developments mark a trend towards open-source warfare? If they do, why are we, whether ordinary citizens or the media, seemingly unconcerned by this new arms race and the widely accessible nature of drones?
Like Israel's unwillingness to acknowledge their own nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration has so far refused to formally acknowledge its drone program.
There are reports of more than 400 "targeted killing" drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and about 3,000 people have been killed, including hundreds of civilians. But we may never know just how many people have died at the joysticks of pilots in Nevada or New Mexico.
In March 2011, the U.S. Air Force began training more pilots for drones than for any other purpose for the first time in history.
It is deeply troubling that the Obama administration has not only augmented Bush's drone program, but plans to continue to accelerate its secret war against "enemy-combatants" across the world. Firstly, it directly opposes U.S. interests and stokes hostility and anti-American sentiment, but most importantly sets a horrible precedent for those groups or nations who will undoubtedly acquire their own drone fleets.
I was joined by Daniel Nisman, an Israeli intelligence manager at Max Security Solutions in Tel Aviv; Heather Roff, an associate professor at the University of Denver; Peter Asaro, an assistant professor at The New School and Shirin Sadesghi, an international journalist in San Francisco, CA.