The fact that US officials have confirmed that they are flying unmanned aircraft, or drones, above the Caribbean basin, should not come as a surprise to the people of Antigua & Barbuda.
Some commentators become indignant at the fact that the United States has taken upon itself to police our area for drug trafficking. These commentators usually get on their high horse and point out that we are a sovereign nation and, as such, we alone should decide how to deal with drug smuggling in our waters.
While there is something to be said for national pride, it seems senseless to spend resources on battles that we cannot win.
There are two battles that we cannot win. One is the battle against drug smuggling and the other is against the hegemony that allows the US to spread its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tentacles right into our own back yard.
The battle against drug smugglers is un-winnable, even for the mighty USA.
This is so firstly because of the vast quantities of money involved and the corruption that this can finance and secondly because of the wide market for drugs that appears to be part of the North American lifestyle. This applies not only in our small country, which has garnered an unenviable reputation for the corrupt behaviour of some of our officials, but also to much of the developed world.
The other battle that we cannot win is the fight to dictate how drug smuggling should be handled in our own territory. The truth of the matter is that the United States realises that they are the lucrative market for these substances and are not likely to yield to our petty objections about sovereignty so they will take any actions they deem necessary to tackle the problem as they see it.
According to the CMC report, using drone technology to monitor narcotics traffickers allows the DHS to perform its functions much more effectively than the old fashioned, manned aircraft surveillance and interception by coast guard vessels.
The US officials said that part-submarine vessels travelling great distances without surfacing are emerging as a key vehicle for ferrying drugs through the Caribbean Sea. They also note that cocaine-laden speedboats often sail at night to evade capture.
The Guardian unmanned aircraft, which can stay on patrol twice as long as manned aircraft, is now being widely used as its persistent surveillance capability is what makes it perfect for the maritime environment.
Even so, of the 214 reported incidents, the stealth vessels employed by the smugglers evaded authorities 79 per cent of the time, according to the DHS.
This is not a very good success rate and would seem to indicate a need to review drug policy in our part of the world. We do not have the stomach here in the western world for the draconian punishment for drug trafficking adopted by some Asian countries and so we continue to struggle to find solutions to the problems of drug use, including legalisation of some drugs.
So we will continue to open our back yards to the snoops at DHS, voluntarily or otherwise.
What we should be looking at now is how to turn this seeming disadvantage to our benefit.
Lothar Eckardt, a DHS official, is reported as saying the US government shares intelligence and security technologies with neighbours to the north and south.
We should be aiming at using some of these technologies to help solve some of our other problems.
The issue of over-fishing comes to mind, as it does not seem unreasonable to piggyback on the information from the drones in our back yard to get an up to date picture of fishing vessels operating within our area.
It is a matter, of course, for our own officials to propose to the Americans the setting up of an electronic feed that could identify poachers operating in our waters. Tracking these vessels should be a simple task compared to tracking submersible vessels.
This proposition, of course, may not be a viable one but it is the kind of initiative that gains respect from developed countries who are always happy to see developing countries thinking for themselves and taking action to solve their problems intelligently.
In any case, spin-offs from such contacts could be most beneficial and could lead down paths unseen for now. Think training and the imparting of expertise, no matter how limited.