Here’s a question: What’s the rational, logical objection to “drone” strikes?
I’ve read and heard a lot of rhetoric opposing the use of strikes from unmanned” aerial vehicles (UAV) by the U.S., but I don’t see a clear, rational objection. The opposition talks of civilian casualties and the horror of watching people die in detail from the sky. The bulk of their argument, is appeal to emotion. I can understand opposition to killing, and especially the killing of civilians, but is the objection to the idea of attempting to kill the insurgents who are targeted, or the use of UAVs to do it? Would manned aircraft, infantry or tanks be better? What’s more efficient?
I believe that the word “drone” in itself gathers a bit of hysteria; I remember being a child learning the word “drone” dealing with social insects such as bees. So in my opinion the word “drone” is associated with the concept, “hive”. I never been a fan of euphemistic language, so I don’t recommend calling them something else; the change of words isn’t going to change the condition. I like to point out that the vehicle IS controlled by a person. Being an “unmanned” aerial vehicle denotes the fact that there isn’t a man controlling it from a cockpit within the vehicle; it’s being controlled by a man still. This isn’t Skynet or Matrix; any automatic function is no different than cruise control, or the automatic flight path technology that’s found in passenger planes. They are not sentient, sapient devices. Yes, that had to be said. I also like to point out the drones are practically useless in a war (or battlespace) that the drone users do not already have air superiority. We cannot just fly drones over China or Iran, for example, because they would force a landing or shoot them down. In fact, any nation with a marginal air force can just shoot these down. With that being said, allow me to examine a couple of counter arguments:
The “Sovereign Nation” Argument
I never bought into the sovereign nation argument. Take Pakistan for example, where the overwhelming majority of the drone strikes occur. Pakistan for example, has an Air Force with relatively modern interceptor aircraft, including F-16s and JF-17s. The “outrage” is politically driven. The drones used, are huge, and loud. While the government of Pakistan may insist that the U.S. stop using drones, fringe logic indicates that Pakistan can shoot these things down anytime they wish, therefore implies that their government is fine with what the U.S. is doing. Specifically, terminating insurgents and political enemies who are not exactly friendly with the Pakistani government in the first place, and providing a distraction from inward social ills.
It’s Like a Video Game! (Slippery Slopes)
The video game argument attempts to make it a point that this technology makes killing easier, thus enabling one to kill indiscriminately. The flaw in this notion, is that it assumes the disposition of the pilot (yes, they are called pilots) and it assumes that the killing is running rampant. While the disposition of the pilot can be challenged, the amount of strikes is not at all that high in comparison to other ways one can die in Pakistan. 3,549 strikes took place ever since we began in 2004. But this is NINE YEARS of time; this averaged out equals 394 kills per year. What’s more, is that the government of Pakistan itself states that only three percent of people killed since 2008 (makes the number 2,227) were civilians. Three percent of 2,227 is 67 — a low number, indicating that the killing isn’t as rampant and mindless as alarmists state.
Disposition? The pilots are treated with the same care that actual cockpit-based pilots are; proper sleep, total health evaluations. Is it a moot point, that war technology advancements make people uneasy in general? If the internet existed in World War I and II, there would be the same hysterical objection in journalism and the blogosphere, and we’d have the same conversations concerning the biplane and main battle tank. Unfortunately, all war tech makes it easier to kill, from the bronze age, to the jet age, to the information age. Technology marches on.
The “Send a Squad” Argument
This sounds reasonable to a person who does not know the terrain of the battlefield. But to the person who knows war logistics and knows the terrain, this doesn’t work, and it’s naive at best. The U.S. uses their ground forces when it’s applicable, or best to do so. Drone strikes are used where terrain and logistics simply doesn’t allow ingress/egress of ground forces. These places are in far off, isolated areas that are largely ungoverned. This also implies a point in reverse; We don’t use drone strikes in places of positive control. They are not used in a, for example, bustling metropolis where civilian deaths would be an obvious result. These are the precise reasons why you’ll never see an FBI or CIA “drone strike” in the United States — why send a drone when you can just knock on their door? We don’t need drones in places we exercise positive control. There is NO positive control in the regions drones are used.
Gives Them a Reason to Hate Us
So it may make more insurgents and/or terrorists in the future? I can understand that and I’ll rate that as hypothetically true. However, the majority of terrorists or insurgents already have reasons to hate us, reasons to fight. Terrorism and insurgencies have existed long before the advent of the drone strike. This is circular logic, at best. The reason why we are there is because they caught us while we were sleeping and refused to give up the leader and the group responsible. They are not being pursued into the deep isolated stretches of the world for the hell of it. They already hate us, and are not short on reasons to fight.
He Who chases Monsters
Of course, with any emotion-driven debate, the point is raised that it is the U.S., who are terrorists, and if not, we are becoming one. Each time I heard any version of this in a debate, the opposing person WILL obfuscate “terrorist” into one who makes someone else “terrified”, and being that they are afraid of getting shot, blown up or otherwise killed, we are terrorists. This, has to be the dumbest crock of minotaurian fecal matter that ever will be heard in this discussion. A basic human fear of death doesn’t equal any or all things that may take lives as a “terrorist act”. INTENT, purpose, matters. Terrorism is the systematic use of violence as a means of coercion to change political policy, and deliberately targets or disregard the safety of non-combatants, with and intent of establishing that your government cannot help you; supposed to make a government look inept or powerless in the face of it’s people; destroy a sense of national security. Terrorism has a “whatcha gonna do after that, punk?” factor to it, towards a particular governance. Governments typically don’t like terrorism; it coerces them to do things people generally don’t want to do, or things people generally don’t like. There IS a measure of security (either too high or too low), that leads to social discomfort.
Let’s get one thing straight — if the United States actually wanted to INTENTIONALLY strike non-combatants, it could easily use cluster-bomb munitions, without expensive microchips and guidance systems, and just carpet bomb the crap out of a given area. But even still, there is no governing body to coerce to force hands. Intent and purpose, matters.
So that’s a small rundown on the drone debate. Where do you stand? Now in every war era, war tech gets civilianized. We are bound to see drones (non armed) in the United States more. While I can build an argument on drones in warfare, I don’t like the hypothetical notion of a drone accidentally crashing into my parked car, or someone shooting down a drone, intercepting my amazon.com package. I might not be able to make peace with that. One thing that you can count on is the fact technology will march on, and that’s The Bigger Picture.