Drones, In and Out of Government…

— This article, written by Jerry Cates, was first published by Govinthenews on 1 January 2012. It was last revised on 29 April 2013. © Govinthenews Vol. 3:1(1).

Drone — (DROH-nn) noun:

1. A male bee, especially a honeybee, that is characteristically stingless, performs no work, and produces no honey. Its only function is to mate with the queen bee.
2. An idle person who lives off others; a loafer.
3. A person who does tedious or menial work; a drudge.
4. A pilotless aircraft operated by remote control.

Some words have quite an interesting set of definitions. The Old English derived word “drone” is one of those. The word, originally ‘dran or dræn,’ referred to a male honeybee and probably originated as an onomatopoeia (i.e., the word itself, when spoken, makes a sound similar to that of an airborne, slow-moving bee). In the 16th century the word took on the added meaning of  laziness, as the facts that male bees do not gather nectar or pollen, do not make honey, and live off the produce of the worker bees, became better understood.

Today the word has several other meanings, all somewhat related. We could easily flesh out the above set to encompass several typewritten pages of material, but the main points are covered. All that remains is to tie them all together. As an entomologist, my focus is on the first item (male bees) in the list, yet it is easy to extrapolate from that to all the other ways that the word is used today.

We have drones in modern human society today, but we’ve not learned the lessons that bee colonies have. Though male bees perform useful functions, the price to the hive is relatively high, so when food stores begin to wane, the worker bees drive the drones out of the hive and forbid their return. If we humans understood that lesson, we’d make major changes to all our social welfare programs, and demand that non-productive members of society pull their own weight.

While the queen typically lives 4-5 years, and worker bees live up to 4 months, drones — which ironically take longer to develop in the nursery — live the shortest lives, averaging but 40-50 days, an adaptation that helps keep them from draining precious hive resources. The lesson here, it seems to me, is to insist on term limits for all our governmental workers — elected, appointed, and hired — without exception. Government does for human society what the male bee does for a bee hive. The functions of government should be transitory and definite, and when those functions are not needed, the functionary servants of the people should be terminated, forthwith, to return to society where they must — like the rest of us — fend for themselves as the ordinary citizens that they are.

One more analogy to meditate on: the more lengthy nursery development of the bee-hive drone makes it a suitable host for a devastating parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, which in recent years has managed to decimate all the bee hives it is introduced into. This is a lesson tacked onto the lesson just examined. The very existence of a favored class — the government worker — of individuals who claim to need time to develop into “productive servants of the electorate,” opens the door to a broad spectrum of parasitic activities, including the creation of exorbitant retirement and healthcare programs, insider trading in securities, graft, and corruption of every imaginable kind. And, like in the bee hive, the result is not merely that the drones feather their own nests, but that the hive itself becomes contaminated to the point that its very existence is threatened. We must be suspicious of every possible evidence we see of corruption on the parts of our governmental workers. And when we see it, we must take steps immediately to see that it is corrected.


Atomics General Stealth Drone

Now let’s switch gears and take a look at another kind of drone, a pilotless aircraft operated by remote control.

Our American military is very fond of these aircraft. They are deployed in all kinds of places these days, from the border between the U.S. and Mexico, to the airspace throughout Afghanistan, and — from all the evidence available — to the border between Afghanistan and Iran, and possibly within the airspace above the nation of Iran.

A 15 December 2011 news report carried by Fox News reported on the purchase of the Avenger Stealth Drone, manufactured by General Atomics for the USAF.  According to that report, the new drone, which can carry more than 2,000 lb. of airstrike weaponry, and thus can perform armed aerial reconnaissance sorties, was ordered months before we lost an errant RQ-170 Sentinel drone that landed, apparently with little damage, deep inside Iran.

That report added to an earlier report of 12 December 2011, by FlightGlobal, about the Avenger (also known as the Predator-C) acquisition. According to that story, only one of these drones was procured. The report stated the drone is jet powered and has a high degree of commonality with similar General Atomics drone systems that are presently being employed by the Department of Defense, including — for example — the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. The Predator C is said to be capable of airspeeds over 400kt (740km/h) and altitudes of 60,000ft (18,200m) or more.

Nifty, indeed. And dangerous, both to our enemies and — one might guess — to us if our enemies manage to gain control of it and its payload, as possibly happened to the RQ-170 Sentinel that ended up in the hands of Iran’s leaders back on 3 December 2011. Fortunately, the RQ-170 was unarmed, but many of the drones presently in use by our military forces carry sophisticated missiles capable of wreaking considerable destruction. And, if speculation — that the RQ-170 was downed after jamming equipment in Iran severed the link between the drone and its controllers — is correct, it is reasonable to suspect the same thing could happen to an armed version as well.

That’s bad enough, but there’s more to worry about where these drones are concerned. A power struggle appears to be shaping up regarding the oversight of the drones being used by the U.S. military. According to a Fox News Report on 30 December 2011 the White House is balking at providing Congress the information it is requesting about the use of the drones for military purposes.

To this veteran of the Vietnam war, who personally witnessed the misuse of sophisticated aerial reconnaissance and awesome forms of weaponry that stemmed from a lack of congressional oversight, the report that the White House and Congress is bickering over such things is deeply disturbing. Oversight is absolutely imperative. There should be no question about that. The White House claims, according to the report, that  granting Congress the oversight it demands will lead to unauthorized disclosures. That’s not a trivial concern, and gauging from the way many of our elected members of Congress behave, it points to a serious and genuine risk to national security. Which brings us back to the first part of this article…

Enough said? No, not nearly enough.

In a later article I write about the proposed use of drones to conduct surveillance of Americans, in violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The egregious trampling on American 4th Amendment rights is bad enough, but — as pointed out toward the end of that paper — other concerns are even more glaring. We might first ask about the propriety of violating similar rights of citizens of other nations. Oh, yes, that’s been asked and answered, right? Most other nations don’t have anything analogous to the 4th Amendment in their constitutions, so we needn’t worry about violating what for them does not even exist. There may be a modicum of truth to that, but it is easy to take it too far. Not long ago one of our drones destroyed a house full of people — men, women, and children — and, along with a few genuine terrorists, a lot of innocents died.


Well, yes, that’s war. I know. Still, it ought to make us pause, not only because every innocent life that is sacrificed to the god of American security diminishes, at least in my mind, the intrinsic value of that security. It also reveals the inherent dangers of using armed drones to mete out “justice.”

Justice good, No? Yes, justice good. But, kemo sabe, how far we willing to go, to get justice? That’s a good question, Tonto. Let’s see… these drones that are proposed to be flown over American soil to monitor the behavior of American citizens, they will be unarmed at first, right? Yes, unarmed, at first, but — I ask — for how long?

An interesting question, don’t you think? I go into more detail about the possible answer in the other posting.

And that brings us to another point, very crucial, and very important. Our president, we are told, has a personal “kill list” of terrorists. He sees it as a duty of his to choose who, on that list, will die, and then goes after them with a vengeance. In a way, I can appreciate such devotion. I grew up in a military family and spent — early in my adulthood — over a decade in the military and working closely with the Department of Defense, nearly two and a half of those years in Vietnam under combat conditions. It might be expected that military approaches to problems would have a familiar, logical tone for Americans like me (we’re a pretty large fraction of the American population, come to think of it).

Yet we shouldn’t expect — nor should we want — the president of the United States to behave like a modern day Louis XIV, Julius Caesar, or Napoleon Bonaparte. The specter of our president exhibiting the same obsessive-compulsive streak that marked the behavior of those tragic rulers is worrisome, to say the least. Still, it should concern Americans that their president seems determined to follow in their footsteps, by taking the reins of military destruction in his own hands, pulling the strings and punching the buttons directly — behaving in a manner not wholly unlike that exhibited by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (1928-2003).

Does he have even so much as a clue how much he resembles those men of the past? Does he even care?

To the first question, it is clearly possible that the answer is yes. If so, might we assume that he is infatuated with the power they enjoyed, and their abilities to exercise that power with careless abandon whenever and wherever they chose? The evidence exists to present a good case for that, and all who recognize that trait must surely cringe. Psychologists will doubtless analyze the behavior of this man for decades to come, searching for answers to explain what made him tick. But we must deal with the immediate results of his apparently monarchistic approach to diplomacy and war, and judging from history alone those results will not be good. Not for him, and most certainly not for this nation.

The second question is more complicated. Care about what? Pursuing his own agenda regardless of the consequences? That he cares about, though it is almost certain that he believes his agenda will produce — in the long run — a set of results that are, at least to him, acceptable. It would be good if his beliefs in that regard were bolstered by good, demonstrable logic. Such logic, however, appears to this observer to be shockingly miniscule if not entirely absent. Narcissism, not logic, seems his greatest ally.

One of the hallmarks of a democratic republic is that those elected to its highest offices are not permitted to behave like monarchs or totalitarian dictators. Whenever our president acts as though he or she has not accepted such limitations on executive powers, that should make all Americans — not to mention all thinking persons everywhere — very concerned.

How would you feel, as a citizen of a foreign land, knowing the American president was personally orchestrating the flyover of armed drones near you? Armed drones capable of — at the flick of a switch or the punch of a button — destroying entire homes, businesses, their contents, and all the humans — men, women, and children — within? I can tell you I would be angry. Angry enough to what? That’s the question. The answer? The most logical answer I can think of is unsettling, to say the least. How wise is it, I ask, for our president, who regularly travels throughout the world, to make enemies of the ordinary citizens of the nations he visits throughout the world? Enemies who might love to harm him, even knowing they might die in the process? Wisdom, I would think, should counsel against that. Where are our president’s wise counselors? Is he seeking their advice or does he think he doesn’t need such advice?

Monarchs and totalitarian dictators take the reins of power into their own hands, and thus become subject to all the risks that accompany such behavior. There is, therefore, good reason for every Chief of State of every modern democratic republic to behave like the executive of a democratic republic ought, and put distance between his office and the theater of war. Wise Chiefs of State of modern democratic republics understand the need to abstain from dictatorial behavior. Such do not have personal “kill lists.” Nor to they chase down the enemies of their country using armed drones deployed over foreign lands, especially without the full and enthusiastic approval of the governments, not to mention the citizens, of those foreign lands.

But, sadly — for him and for the nation he foolishly thinks he rules — wisdom, at least the species particularly germane to the behavior of responsible Chiefs of State concerned with their place in history, may not be this president’s strong suit.

— Questions? Corrections? Comments? e-mail jerry.cates@govinthenews.info. You may also register, log in, and leave a detailed comment in the space provided below.

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