[H]e seems to be looking at only one side of a coin that, in fact, has two sides. Ackerman sees that drones make it easy to get involved in wars. But he ignores the fact that for exactly the same reason, they make it easier to limit involvement in wars. How one feels about drones is partly conditioned by what one believes the null hypothesis to be. If one imagines that absent drones, our involvement in certain countries where we now use them would look more like law enforcement operations, one will tend to feel differently, I suspect, that if one thinks our involvement would look more like what happened in Iraq. Drones enable an ongoing, serious, military and intelligence involvement in countries without significant troop commitments. In other words, without drones, would our involvement in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia really be lesser, or might it involve greater exercises of force? Would we really now be able to contemplate a withdrawal of large numbers of troops from Afghanistan, a withdrawal predicated on our ability to conduct ongoing counterterrorism operations from more stand-off positions? My point is not that drones are a magic bullet; they aren’t. But their precision and safety and relatively low cost do allow the country to contemplate limited involvement in conflicts that might otherwise prove magnets for escalation and quagmire.
Again: good point. But we ought not to be so quick to conclude that drones are a substitute for expensive, expansive foreign commitments. History is full of military schemes that promised little up-front investment to meet minimal objectives that then spiraled out of control. Even drones aren't just drones. Strikes are a lagging indicator of an intelligence network, including some human sources (and drone intel! Remember, most drones are spying machines, not killing machines), a logistics chain, etc.
That's not to say the drones don't have a lower, cheaper profile than ground wars, just that nothing's free or easy in this wicked world. And once you commit the resources to a drone war, it's easy to see a host nation wanting more out of you; or a problem festering beyond the point drones can address; etc. There's no contradiction in being wary of technological pledges of zipless interventions even while we maximize what new technologies have to offer.