What is the point of having this superb military if you can’t use it?
The record of this year’s wars shows that although these weapons may not provide a decisive edge in combat they excel in self-advertisement, projecting an image of all-seeing omnipotence. Drones induce terror in civilian populations and healthy profits for manufacturers. The spell persists even when they are unarmed. Protesters in Minneapolis on the morning of 29 May, three days after local police murdered George Floyd, were monitored by a Reaper drone deployed by US Customs and Border Protection, circling four miles above the city. News of the deployment elicited widespread alarm; a letter signed by several senior members of Congress condemned the use of ‘live video feeds’ for the purposes of law-enforcement. All demonstrations during the post-Floyd protests were exposed to the full machinery of government surveillance – intrusive monitoring of social media, cellphone traffic and cameras at ground level – but it was the use of drones that caused the outrage, a testament to the fascination these machines exert.