Six years ago, I argued that the United States had been shortsighted in its decision to fund a lethal drone industry and to normalize the weapon’s use. Inevitably, the approach would hasten the proliferation of lethal drones. “Our military is the strongest in the world,” I argued at the time. “The gap between our Air Force and the next best is huge. In the short term, our near monopoly on drones has given us an even bigger advantage. But these are naturally asymmetric weapons. Cheap. Far easier to build and operate than a fighter jet. Relatively inconspicuous. As they spread to other states and non-state actors, they’ll decrease our edge.”
That’s precisely what has since come to pass. In Yemen, where the United States long deployed lethal drones, pro-government troops were holding a military parade in an area where they thought they controlled the airspace. Then they heard a high-pitched whine and looked up as a weaponized drone exploded, killing six, wounding others with shrapnel, and sowing chaos as blood pooled where high-ranking officials had sat.
Anti-government rebels were behind the attack, which happened earlier this month. The drone resembled a model manufactured by Iran.
“This event marks a significant milestone during the conflict in Yemen, as well as the application of basic armed drones to conflict in general,” Nick Waters, an ex–British Army officer, wrote on his site Bellingcat.