THE BLOG
01/30/2014 11:41 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2014

Drone Warriors

Our planet has known its fair share of warriors and warrior kings. A warrior king is not the same as a warmongering king, or an elected civilian official. A warrior king has fought in battle, endangered his life (if he's the brave sort of king) and instilled the nature of violence -- at least to some extent -- into his being.

This doesn't mean he loves peace, or war. He, or she (think Joan of Arc) might fight for defense of the homeland, fear of a powerful neighbor, religious motivations or raw territorial expansion. Irrespective of the reasons toward violence, a warrior king who has shed blood in battle generally has some understanding of the costs armed conflict can inflict upon the men and women who wage war, as well as the toll it can take on civilian populations suffering under the burdens of unrestricted combat.

The United States is an exceedingly powerful nation with a talent for war. Depending on what team you happen to be rooting for, this can be perceived as a good or bad thing. Regardless of your feelings about the unparalleled (not yet, China) strength of the American military, it seems fairly obvious that drone technology has, and is continuing to change the nature of global conflict.

Unmanned drones, civilian and military grade, seem to be everywhere these days. Even Amazon is toying around with the idea of using drones to deliver goods (not bombs) to your doorstep. One day soon, perhaps, drones might darken our skies with the programmed intent of ending human life -- or simply to deliver our mail. Considering mankind's penchant for consumerism and aggression, it's a coin toss as far as I'm concerned as to which one.

When the risks of death and destruction are diminished at home, the tendency to wage endless, limited strikes (there's a paradox for you) increases. That might be peachy keen with you when it's your team flying the drones, but that might not always be the case.

The unchecked destructive potential of drone technology is something our leaders, and other heads of state are contending with now. The ability to strike anywhere on Earth at any time is an incredibly powerful tool. It's doubtful that this power will ever be given up willingly. It falls to the "civilized" world (yes, I know that term comes with a lot of inherent biases) and formidable military players to try and set some limits on just how godlike their ability to rain death down upon their enemies should be.

We might be able to bomb the crap out of al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, but should we continue to do so for years or decades to come? As our ability and willingness to kill remotely grows, it's a strong likelihood that less-than-friendly coalitions will arise in an attempt to keep our unbridled power in check.

The real warrior kings of the past rode their horses near or at the front lines of their retinues and armies. These battle-hardened leaders shared in the collective risk of their men to some degree. Their reasons for battle could be noble, or ignoble (as often was the case), but the monarchs of old bled with their comrades on the battlefield -- and when the "king's ransom" wasn't met, died with their men as well.

Professional, high-tech militaries have made it easier for societies to wage war. The burden of mass conscription and the sacrifices everyday citizens used to make toward mobilization efforts have dwindled away. On an increasingly frequent basis, drones allow for military strikes of varying scales around the world without ever having to commit boots (special operations forces excluded) to the ground.

In an age filled with video game-esque combat, it's important to know when to hit an enemy, how hard, and when to show some restraint. An expert sniper understands that after a target is taken out, it's time to head home. If he keeps shooting, someone is bound to find him, and shoot back. A future "drone king" left unchecked, with a deadly army of drones at his disposal, could very well set the world on fire. And he could do so without ever leaving his chair.

Drones have their place, and in future wars might even become instrumental in massive assaults on enemy positions. Even so, a measured use of this technology should be the guiding rule by which a democracy abides. The lethality of a done is an awesome tool, but when overused, it becomes a poor substitute for going after the root causes of enduring, international problems.