Drones are one of the most popular innovations that new technology has brought us in our society today. Drones can be put to many uses such as crop monitoring and resource management.
Armed drones, however, have been used by the U.S. government to wreak havoc in various corners of the globe. Civilian casualties, such as the well-publicized death of a 13-year-old boy in Yemen, have drawn increasing criticism toward the use of armed drones by the U.S.
On February 17, the Obama administration announced that it would begin selling armed drones to foreign countries that meet vaguely-worded standards set by the Department of Defense. The Obama administration has shown no signs of reducing its own use of drone strikes, and is now proposing this new policy of exporting the frightful power of drones to other parts of the world.
Some have argued that drones are necessary because they save U.S. lives. But drones take the lives of innocent civilians, create instability in a volatile region, and give fuel to the fire of extremism, which can increase the risk to U.S. troops.
The faith community, long concerned with the use of armed drones, is now calling for a complete halt in the face of their wanton destruction. Last month at Princeton Theological Seminary an interfaith group gathered to consider the moral, ethical and legal questions raised by drone warfare. Ten Mennonites participated in the conference, which ultimately reached a set of recommendations, the most notable of which was an immediate and complete halt to drone strikes. Agreement on this recommendation by such a wide variety of faith groups, including many that are not pacifist, was highly significant.
One might legitimately ask why Mennonites or other peace churches would focus particular attention on drones. After all, we oppose all wars and bombing campaigns and favor a permanent end to the use of armed drones, not just a temporary halt or moratorium. At the same time, any reduction in death and armed conflict is better than the existing state of affairs, and supporting a halt on armed drones is one practical step right now in which we can find common ground with many other faith groups.
None of this should preclude us from continuing to call for a more sweeping end to violence in all its forms. The Mennonite worldview is not a popular or mainstream one, but we remain committed to it because of Jesus’ teachings. Furthermore, our experience has shown that violence creates an atmosphere where extremism can flourish. Rather than promoting military efforts such as the use of armed drones, we can put our words into action by supporting community-level peacemaking efforts and diplomatic efforts to resolve conflict.
Joshua Russell is Legislative Assistant and Communications Coordinator in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office. Printed with permission from PeaceSigns. Originally printed on February 25, 2015.