Rand Paul has been rightly criticized for flip-flops over drones. From his famous filibuster on the Senate floor that forced AG Holder to state that limits will be respected on using drones on American soil against American citizens, he has then shown support for drones a few months after the filibuster. The context was the Boston Marathon bombings and under what circumstances drones would be justified in a domestic situation. He had to offer a non-retraction retraction and now he has stated he supports drones in military situations like the Afghanistan incident that ended with two dead hostages. Rand has taken a lot of flak from his libertarian supporters over this issue and perhaps he should have kept his mouth shut about the issue.

The thing is, it’s very very good that he did not zip it. Because the issue of drones – a very powerful and increasingly cheap and available technology – is one that needs to be discussed, with political zig zags and pratfalls thrown in. It needs to be discussed because with Baltimore burning over a possible case of police abuse of a detained young man who died from injuries apparently suffered while in custody, the issue of armed drones being used by police forces is not some crazed scenario or just a scene from a Jason Bourne film. It is a powerful, invasive technology that must be carefully weighed in terms of costs and benefits before being adopted by law enforcement agencies around the country. And a terrorist attack using home-rigged drones inside America is not a laughable theoretical either. Drones are a weapon above all; that’s how they were designed. How they are used by private citizens can’t just be left up to those private citizens themselves. And how police forces use them does and should make us uncomfortable.

Will drones end up being restricted and then face legal challenges? Ones that even invoke the 2nd amendment? That might be a little far fetched, but an open debate about drones in America is far from a waste of time. Whether in the media, or on the Senate floor. Let Rand Paul drone on. It’s a necessary thing.