In 1907, just four years after the Wright Brothers had flown a few hundred yards across the beaches of North Carolina, H. G. Wells imagined The War in the Air. In Wells’ dark fantasy, the German Empire employs a fleet of airships to preemptively attack the United States, its only potential scientific, industrial, and geopolitical peer. The German target was New York.
Since the introduction of weaponized drones as a tool of counterterrorism by the Bush administration not long after 9/11, and especially since their use was ramped up dramatically by the Obama administration, their strategic meaning and value has been sharply debated. The answers vary wildly and often run to extremes, starting with the question of whether they constitute something “new” in armed conflict.