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The Use of Drones

October 15, 2015
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I have come across some outstanding articles on the topic of the use of drones and the effect it is having in the Middle East.

A Whistleblower Steps Forward on Drones Just published today, this article provides a fantastic link dump to many excellent articles on the topic, two of which I highlight below.

Is the U.S. drone program in Yemen working?

The Drone Papers

And a (older) book: Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution (2014)
Hit the jump for the “Editor’s Note”

Editor’s note: My own take on the use of drones is that while the motivations are different, the acts themselves and the resulting effects on the lives of those under which they reign, are indistinguishable from “terrorist acts”. From a stance of “peace” or “peace keeping”, it is the height of hypocrisy to use attack drones to fight terrorists. I would be happy to debate this in the comments if anyone is interested in exploring this issue further.

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8 Comments
  1. October 16, 2015 11:00 am

    Is there such a thing as a “humane way to kill?”

    War is War. The one with the best weapons, best soldiers, the just cause, and the will to endure, wins.

    We who love peace desire to live in peace. But when war comes, and peace must be put aside, fear our wrath.

    “The Art of War” by Kenai…

  2. October 16, 2015 5:57 pm

    Thank you for responding, Kenai. According to the articles I linked above, 60% of Americans would agree with you. That is more than the entirety of one of the political parties. Furthermore: “President Bush began the drone war. President Obama radically expanded it. Both have defended its legitimacy.” So, you are in good company.

    This is a huge topic so I will be presenting my opinions and arguments in at least two comments, posting them as I complete them.

  3. October 16, 2015 6:38 pm

    First, I want to clarify what I am *not* talking about.

    I am not saying that everyone should “stick to their trenches and play fair” a la WWI, nor am I even saying that people should have to “declare” war before they strike. In that sense, I never felt that Japan was “wrong” for not announcing their attack on Pearl Harbor. War is war. If you want to fight and steal someone’s land, no, you don’t go knocking on their door, tell them to get their guns and try to defend their house because you are coming. You swoop in, steal, run, and be prepared for the wrath to come. However, if you do come and wipe out their storehouses and kill their citizens, prepare for retribution. Justice must/will be done.

    Similarly, in wartime, if one country has superior technology I expect them to use it. In this case, some countries have drones and others don’t. That doesn’t mean that the country which has drones cannot use them simply because the other doesn’t. Furthermore, I am not against reconnaissance use at any time, just against attack use in countries between which peace is expected/claimed. If the U.S. wants to go to war with Yemen, and use drones in a preemptive strike before they even declare war, fine, but after that initial strike, those countries should consider themselves at war.

    Jack Nicholson’s speech below is profound. He makes excellent points.

  4. October 16, 2015 8:33 pm

    Here is what I *am* talking about.

    terrorist attack – a surprise attack involving the deliberate use of violence against civilians in the hope of attaining political or religious aims
    act of terrorism, terrorism, terrorist act – the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear FreeDictionary

    The only way in which the current use of attack drones in non-warzones does not match this definition, is that the violence is not (purportedly) directed against civilians. In practice, however, “nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets”. The civilians in the country in which the attacks take place, know only that they were safe and happy one day, and the next, family members were killed by some surprise (literally invisible drones launching lethal ordinance impacting with probably less than a second of warning, on any given day). It doesn’t matter that the attack is meant for a single person, many are affected. The civilians in these countries now live in terror that at any moment a bomb may drop. The immorality of the use of bombs/landmines which by their very nature are random as opposed to “precise” or “surgical” in countries that are at war is arguable*. Between countries not at war? It is an act of terror and war simultaneously.

    What’s more, there is zero accountability for this use of the drones. If there are targets on foreign soil who are taken out by assassins, if there is a “mistake”, in most situations there will be scandal and people/governments will be held responsible. With the drone strikes, only the most egregious failures involving many lives and none of the targets, are ever dealt with, even in just a fig-leaf manner.

    Edit: Let me clarify or restate, I consider the use of attack drones between countries not at war to be indistinguishable from “terrorist act” and “act of war” simultaneously. Whether that is desirable or forgivable is another issue.

  5. October 18, 2015 10:43 pm

    There’s the RUF, ROE, and geneva conventions. Plus there’s ROE from each branch, RoEs from NATO and all the different strategic alliances.

    Not well versed yet on all to really make a comment, but in any case I doubt simple definitions would apply.

    I also doubt the there would be a quick judgement from my part to anyone who has their duty to carry out engaments and be placed in that position. I don’t know their particulars and from my experiences I doubt I would appreciate an outsider’s perspective if there’s nowhere near first hand accounts of what is like to be in that position.

    • October 19, 2015 1:10 am

      You are right, those various International conventions have and are defining what is fair and what is not. This is a new form of warfare, new technology, and it will take some debating to figure out whether or not the use of attack drones between peaceful nations should be considered an act of war or terrorism. That is fine. Until they do, I will be sure to do my own research and think for myself what I consider the use of that particular technology to be.

      By the way, more often than not, when I have opened a topic in a forum like this, I have come away from it either less sure of my thinking, or having changed my mind altogether. It is why I choose to bring it up in the first place. I know that there are holes in my logic/knowledge, and I know that there is always someone who “knows more”, as Mr. Miyagi would say. So I am all ears if you have any arguments other than, “We should let the government and those that love war (even worse), decide what is right and what is wrong.”

      Frenik and Kenai, thank you for your comments. And to everyone, I apologize if I have brought a negative/depressing topic into our little haven here. I appreciate everyone’s input (or silence as the case may be).

    • October 19, 2015 5:38 am

      Well that’s the best thing IMO. I tread carefully in these type of topics because opinions may be misrepresented or not explained fully and wouldn’t want these sort of things floating around the internet.

      But in any case I would be safe to say that IMO comparing a terrorist organization with any military service that has guidelines, has zones of operations, has a government that may probe into any engagement, and said goverment has to respond to it’s allies and other world organizations, is not the same.

      Now that’s without complicating the scenario of a state of unrest where there’s no clear definition of who civilians, rebels and state officials are. Let alone the world politics that determine who is still head of state with or without the support of it’s citizens, etc.

      To me that’s where I draw the line and reserve my judgements because no matter how much media coverage or whistle blowing there may be, we as civilians will not be able to assess a very complex situation.

      I don’t think we should be, and it’s no surprise to me that Obama’s key point on his running platform in 2008, of ending both wars, failed twice.

      Failed to end the real conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will go on as very likely the longest conflict in the u.s. history without a clear end in sight.

      I don’t think it is all his fault, but I am pretty sure that Obama the candidate and Obama the president had a wide gap in insider knowledge of the situation.

      and if it weren’t for his platform and the 2012 elections, he would have probably handled it differently just like Afghanistan is being handled right now.

      Now are information and transparency be excluded in these types of engagement?

      I think so. I think we are not at the level of technology and/or understanding were individual citizens can make the government function as a direct democracy, constantly evaluating and voting on every single decision in military engagements.

      We are not equipped to make those calls, so there should be a curtain.

      Wether what happens behind the curtain require a different system, that’s up for debate.

      Right now the Kennedy assassination is being uncovered little by little. By the time these complex conflicts get uncovered we might be facing entirely different scenarios.

    • October 19, 2015 6:55 am

      Frenik, I have nothing to add, clarify, or debate. Solid points and sound advice. 🙂

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