As if conventionally powered drones weren’t bad enough, a report has it that scientists are developing nuclear-powered drones that could stay in the air for months without refueling. In addition to the fact that this would make drones more efficient killing machines, it also increases the dangers from crashes. Drones are especially prone to crashing, and with a nuclear reactor, a crash would be “in effect turning the drone into a so-called dirty bomb.
The project has apparently been put on hold, with a research summary concluding that "none of the results will be used in the near-term or mid-term future," due to political constraints. But with the increasing reliance on drones by the military, I suspect it won’t be long before it’s resumed.
Since mid-November, the CIA had not launched a drone attack against Pakistan. On Sunday, the New York Times front page prominently featured a story headlined Lull in Strikes by U.S. Drones Aids Militants.
Quoting an array of administration officials, diplomats, intelligence analysts, and one “American government official with decades of experience in Pakistan;” the picture painted was one of a bolder al Qaeda, increased attacks on Pakistani security, and threatened strikes against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It was a “sky is falling” account of the dire effects of no drones.
In my more cynical moments, I think such stories, almost entirely from anonymous sources, are a not-so-subtle way of applying political pressure. It’s one of the ways media and politics interact in Washington. And, sure enough, yesterday, the attacks resumed. Reuters reported that “missiles hit a home on the outskirts of the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan, killing at least four militants.” Recess is over, back to business.