Short Relief: Send in the drones

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It’s early March and I should be wary, but I don’t think it is too early to pronounce unmanned drones the greatest achievement of the 21st century.

They are relatively cheap, quiet and effective. They can solve a host of our problems: terrorism, climate change, illegal immigration, our budget gap, crime, Congress – you name it.

The Sumerians had their phalanxes and maces. The Pharohs adopted the chariot and composite bow. The Assyrians deployed cavalry. The Greeks developed catapults. The Romans organized their army into maniples armed with gladii.

We’ve got drones.

There is no better way to relentlessly patrol the skies over distant lands, waiting for your elusive, shadowy, non-state enemy to emerge from the cave where he has been hiding and plotting against you. Once he shows himself, he can be eliminated. With the wiggle of a joystick. Without leaving your couch. You can even win a medal for it. Talk about asymmetrical warfare.

Climatologists, storm chasers and weathermen could use drones to gather googlebytes of data. Proving that weather is a remarkably complex system. A system in which we humans undoubtedly play a role somewhere between the stature of the sun, the moon, the earth and the occasional unanticipated meteor over Russia. Reminding us that it is hard enough to predict tomorrow’s weather, much less the fate of mankind, and that a little humility is in order.

What better way to police our long and inhospitable, southern border than by flying drones over it 24/7, watching for aliens trying to enter our country illegally? With the use of light and infrared cameras, the Department of Homeland Security can observe them coming from miles away, intercept them, and send them back. Repeatedly.

Law enforcement could use drones to patrol the roads and highways. Equipped with video cameras and radar guns, these drones could catch hundreds of people speeding. At a maximum fine of $500, we could close our now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t state budget gap.

What better way to spy on your neighbors and observe them growing marijuana, dancing naked, or just enriching uranium. Once you’ve documented their violation, you can use it to petition the United Nationa for action. Or not, if they are nutty as a North Korean dictator or Iranian president.

Better yet, let’s send drones to Washington. Congress isn’t doing anything. It hasn’t passed a budget for years. Hasn’t been able to reform the tax code or entitlement spending. Didn’t solve Social Security’s insolvency. Couldn’t avert the derivative securities bubble. Hasn’t reduced the debt.

It used to be that the only way Congress would act was in the face of a crisis. That was the president’s idea behind the sequester. To manufacture a crisis so unpalatable that it would force the parties to resolve their differences with respect to taxation and spending.

Well, that tactic has lost its effectiveness. Sequestration went into effect March 1. The parties didn’t even try to avert it. The president’s people talked about how awful it would be, how the Pentagon would suffer, how air traffic would get snarled, states would get less. But they didn’t talk to the other side.

I say it’s time for a change of tactics. Send in the drones. Clear the place out. Operate DC by remote control. You couldn’t accomplish any less. It would be cheaper.

And there would be less droning.

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Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.