The true cost of drones: Unending war?

James R. Holmes at The Naval Diplomat describes how the function of drones has evolved from artillery spotting to armed UAVs capable of waging war without direct human intervention. Whether armed, or merely used for surveillance and accurate delivery of independently-launched (naval, aerial or land-based) weapons, the low cost of drone warfare raises the prospect of an unending conflict:

…..Two, Clausewitz urges senior leaders to let the value of the political object determine how many national resources they expend to obtain that object, and how long they expend those resources for. Professor Byman appears to define success — again, whether drones work — partly in terms of how much drones cost the United States and its allies. Drone warfare is cheap relative to keeping expeditionary forces on the ground, projecting force inland from the sea, or otherwise prosecuting operations via traditional, resource-intensive methods. But flip the relationship around. By Clausewitzian cost/benefit logic, holding down the magnitude of the effort may let Washington continue with drone strikes more or less indefinitely, even if U.S. leaders are only tepidly committed to the endeavor. A forever war, even an inexpensive one, is an unsettling prospect.

Read more at Present at Creation: How I Pioneered Drone Warfare | James Holmes – The Naval Diplomat | The Diplomat.