I know this will mainly fall on deaf ears, but this is not a good development and not something we should be proud of:
The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.
In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.
Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.
The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.
Killing people in defense of this nation should be open and in full view of the public, not something decided in a CIA star chamber. And I just can’t wait until other nations get this technology and start to use it as casually as we have been.
At any rate, it would be nice if you all read the piece, which is actually pretty solid, before this thread devolves into the typical “WHY DO YOU HATE OBAMA” and “YOU OBOTS WILL DEFEND ANYTHING” shitshow that we all know will happen.
The usual course of shiny new toys that seem to promise killing without serious consequence is that it is misused, and serious consequences follow.
Kevin Drum read the same article:
Sorry. I appreciate your desire to have a rational discussion on an important issue, but I had to stop reading when I got to this:
It’s this type of vague, gotcha writing that has made the mainstream journalism untrustworthy. It’s Obama=Bush in Villager speak.
Something else to be proud of…KAMIKAZEE drones.
From my view, this is just a part — frightening, deeply disturbing part — of the Top Secret America also written about in the Post. I don’t care if it’s Obama, Bush, or Clifford the Big Red Dog — it scares the hell out of me, and it’s not the kind of world I want for my daughter.
You know it’s an ugly part of our political America, because you haven’t heard these Republican deficients running for President say one single thing about it. It’s weird — they hate everything he does… except surreptitiously kill people. Why haven’t the Ron Paul libertarian weirdos picked up on this yet, anyway?
The Pandora’s Box is open. Not sure we’re ever going to get it closed, now. That may be the worst part of it all.
Well, why do you hate Obama?
Has anyone in congress felt like developing some legislation that might bring a better system of due process and a legal framework to the whole problem? Anyone?
If the legislative branch is going to abdicate its power, what is the President supposed to do other than pursue the most effective and barely accountable policies?
Other nations already have the technology, they’re just not as cowardly as yours.
A million times this.
John, your white privilege is showing. We all know that the real issue is that you can’t imagine anyone other than a straight, white man commanding an army of extra-judicial murder robots.
Not sure what new territory drones are covering that missiles and satellites didn’t in the past.
@Xenos has a point..
but that said, when we have a republican president it is not going to get any better, and probably worse. Luckily they are too stupid to do it competently.
I’m not particularly happy with this. I have mixed feelings.. it feels like the 80s again. We did a shitload of stuff in secret then too. Remember our support in central american dictators, that wasn’t really out in the open much but we were doing it. Same shit with Iran in the 70s, and all that. So, I think we still do things in secrecy.. since after all doing it out in the open would be a big mess.
It’s just bad policy. I can understand that we are trying to get rid of a terrorist network and from what I can tell, we’ve been successful doing it. But now we’re leaving behind a framework for future stuff..
The ‘former official’ of both the Bush and Obama WH ? I dunno…Bob
“Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.”
Oddly passive, is not reassuring…..
Wait, what? Huh?
Apart from the fact that this isn’t how things have been done over the last 70 years or so (and that may be a bad thing, but it’s not a new thing), it doesn’t even apply to the drone issue at all.
The AUMF was debated and passed in Congress. The AUMF identified a particular organization and its members as military targets. The drone strikes are against the military targets identified in the AUMF. If there’s a problem here, it’s with the AUMF itself–not the way the administration is carrying it out.
Wait! Wait! Let me start some popcorn.
I think it would be far better to wage counterterror war the way we used to – dumb bombs, wretched excess in the exercise of force by corporals and sergeants, and lots of collateral damage among innocent civilians in order to make fine white Christians happy.
Drones are orders of magnitude cheaper that cruise missile and satellites, thus the temptation to use them for even relatively low value targets…
No one would complain if you closed comments once in a while.
OK, it would be an absolute shitstorm, but wasn’t that good for a laugh?
Baron Munchausen: What’s this?
Vulcan: Oh, this is our prototype. RX, uh, Intercontinental, radar-sneaky, multi-warheaded nuclear missile.
Baron Munchausen: Ah! What does it do?
Vulcan: Do? Kills the enemy.
Baron Munchausen: All the enemy?
Vulcan: Aye, all of them. All their wives, and all their children, and all their sheep, and all their cattle, and all their cats and dogs. All of them. All of them gone for good.
Sally: That’s horrible.
Vulcan: Ahh. Well, you see, the advantage is you don’t have to see one single one of them die. You just sit comfortably thousands of miles away from the battlefield and simply press the button.
If someone is so dangerous that they need to be assassinated in the name of national security, doing so in “full view of the public” makes it a tad bit difficult to assassinate them, no?
It is also my understanding that there are Congressional reps who get briefed on the list of America’s most dangerous enemies, don’t they?
Which means that Americans are represented in this process through their elected officials.
Gee, I missed the part where military operations had to be announced to the public in advance, or that we had to wait until our enemies had both boots on before shooting them. If you expect me to shed a single tear for any of these people, you have another thing coming.
Cris (without an H)
First person to use the word “firebagger” in this thread gets a spanking.
Edit: oh shit it’s me
I agree, I don’t think this is a good idea. I’m highly skeptical about the danger that the targets present, and I don’t like that GWB part II will have this power.
It’s as if the country never got over Bill Maher’s comment that the 9/11 perpetrators were many things, but they were not cowards, and that what is cowardly is dropping missiles from thousands of miles away. Drones take it to a whole other level.
I would note that however much people hate having drones fly over their countries, and however much americans would hate it if it was happening here, I still feel like most people would prefer it to the alternative of having foreign troops marching around their countries.
The refined approach we took in Cambodia should remain the model.
Heh. Next step (not that we’re not there already) is “Real Genius”-style LEO satellite weapons. And they won’t be aimed at giant Jiffy-Pops.
Jay in Oregon
I think it’s straightforward. I don’t want ANY president or administration to have the power to legally (or even “unofficially” *wink*wink*) detain or kill people without due process or outside of a declaration of war.
With that said, I don’t know how you cope with the improved abilities of the “bad guys” to collect their own intelligence and coordinate action and stay within the rule of law. I’m not trying to be a concern troll; I really don’t know how to do it.
Which is, of course, what Republicans and conservatives have been pushing for decades; creating the climate of fear that being “soft on crime” or “trying to appease terrorists” means that you or someone you love will be hurt or killed. It’s easy to buy into the worldview that everybody is out to stab, shoot, or blow up their enemies, and so we need to get the bad guys before they get us, when that’s all you seem to hear about.
@Tom Hilton: THIS.
What makes you think that other nations have not developed this technology? It’s not ultra sophisticated or magical.
And this idea that warfare has to out in the open on a field of honor was thrown out long ago, ya know, like when Revolutionary War Brits supposedly complained about Americans hiding behind rocks and shrubbery, ambushing them, etc.
War is nasty business. It is necessary to try to end it, and the conditions that make it appear to be necessary. But to get all knotted up about drones and other weapons and tactics is just dumb and historically uninformed.
@John- Why can’t you just learn to love the permanent war? Everyone else here seems to.
What kinda whacked out, fucked up logic is that, cole ?
Yeah really, nobody would come to any of the weddings that our murder robots love to destroy if we talked about those plans.
It’s not the drone part that bothers me. That’s just the next step in the increasingly advanced way we kill one another. People wanted to ban the machine gun because it made killing too easy.
The bothersome part is the mingling of military/CIA authority. Being able to use whatever “legal” rationale whenever you want for the purpose of killing people is bullshit. There are rules, and they need to be followed.
Mixed feelings indeed.
But I think this was coming when Congress refused to spend money on transferring prisoners from Guantanamo to the States. We might have tried harder to do some captures if it could be assured that the prisoners would go to some inaccessible Supermax in the states, out of reach of other compadres.
Also, with drones and targeted killing by them, at least we aren’t wiping out villages of people who had nothing to do with Al Queda, financing death squads who take out local grudges on innocent people, or landing commandos on the ground who can either be captured or killed. And who also create their own form of collateral damage due to flying bullets and bombs. Which is another reason why Yemen and other nations aren’t fiercely objecting to the drones. The alternatives are far, far, worse.
In addition, the targets are in places where there’s no real judicial system that could capture them even if they wanted to capture them, and from such havens they are training terrorists who then strike here and abroad and can retreat with impunity.
So what are our options?
In the name of one useful comment in this whole damned thread, here is the UN special rapporteur report on targeted killings that bmaz pointed me to yesterday. The thrust of it is only tangentially about drones–it is a description of legal issues–but it had some great snarky observations here and there. One of the key ones was that the US has to prove that it was in an armed conflict anywhere other than Afghanistan and Iraq–that it was not dealing just with sporadic violence from the AQ-“affiliated groups”. You can certainly argue more convincingly that Yemen is in a state of armed conflict than when this was written and that AQAP “affiliated forces” are fighting in a kind of war. And the report was very pointed that none of the nations that are using targeted killings have given their whole legal rationale for them.
Here are the notes that I made about the drone discussion.
“A missile fired from a drone is no different from any other commonly used weapon, including a gun fired by a soldier or a helicopter or gunship that fires missiles. The critical legal question is the same for each weapon: whether its specific use complies with IHL. The greater concern with drones is that because they make it easier to kill without risk to a State’s forces, policy makers and commanders will be tempted to interpret the legal limitations on who can be killed, and under what circumstances, too expansively. States must ensure that the criteria they apply to determine who can be targeted and killed–i.e. who is a lawful combatant, or what constitutes “direct participation in hostilities” that would subject civilians to direct attack–do not differ based on the choice of weapon. Drones’ proponents argue that since drones have greater surveillance capability and afford greater precision than other weapons, they can better prevent collateral civilian casualties and injuries. This may well be true to an extent, but it presents an incomplete picture. The precision, accuracy and legality of a drone strike depend on the human intelligence upon which the targeting decision is based.” Drones have some advantages in collecting pattern of life information but the drone operations team is thousands of miles away and may have a greater human intelligence gathering disadvantage than the forces on the ground–and “testimony from witnesses and victims’ family members showed that international forces were too often too uninformed of local practices, or too credulous in interpreting information, to be able to arrive at a reliable understanding of a situation. International forces all too often based manned airstrikes and raids that resulted in killings on faulty intelligence.” Risk of playstation mentality, need to train respect for IHL and adequate safeguards for compliance with it. The use of drones is almost never likely to be legal outside armed conflict. “A targeted drone killing in a State’s own territory, over which the State has control, would be very unlikely to meet human rights law limitations on the use of lethal force.” A State could try to claim anticipatory self-defense in a situation that did not rise to the level of armed conflict in territory over which it lacked control, and claim that it had no means of capturing or causing the other State to capture the target, but the conditions of anticipatory self-defense are very unlikely to be met here. This is a similar extreme hypothetical to the ticking time bomb scenario. “In addition, drone killing of anyone other than the target (family members or others in the vicinity, for example) would be an arbitrary deprivation of life under human rights law and could result in State responsibility and individual criminal liability.”
Sorry this comment turned out so long but anyone who read to the end could see it was all important.
Cris (without an H)
This principle needs to be tattooed on the back of the hand of every executive. Whenever you think about changing the underlying structure or policies to suit your short-term goals, ask yourself, “How will my successors use this power?”
We tried to warn them, you know. When the GWB admin was setting new precedents for unchecked executive power, many of us said “Do you want President Hillary Clinton to have this power too?” hoping that might make them reconsider. Ha ha! Silly us.
I blame Iran-Contra, where President Reagan openly defied Congress and broke the law and there were zero consequences. Now the president has powers that Nixon only dreamed of.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with drones being used for surveillance — countries have been spying on each other with planes and satellites pretty much from the moment the Wright brothers got into the air — but using them as weapons is a much, much different thing.
You can already buy a remote controlled drone at Amazon that comes with two video cameras.
It was one of NPR’s gadgets of the year.
Life has just gotten much easier for stalkers & other creeps.
If Republicans were in charge they’d send drones after Occupy protestors. The thought of any of those GOP presidential candidates having control over the military makes my skin crawl.
Drones are the perfect killing tool. Finally, we can achieve General Patton’s dream. Don’t have any Americans die for their country, just let the other bastards die for theirs.
Remote drones solve all the messy nationalistic objections to war. They’re cheap, they’re mobile, and they don’t result in American casualties for namby-pamby liberals to complain about. And given the US military’s zealous labeling of every fried corpse as a terrorist enemy combatant, these weapons will allow us achieve heretofore unrealized levels of “Kill them over there before they kill us over here”-ism.
Paul in KY
My main problem with drones is we shoot the damn things into buildings where we have no idea what non-combatants may be stuck therein.
This provokes fierce animosity against us & terrible PR. I have no problem with using them to kill enemies. I just want to be sure we are killing an enemy & not some poor devil he just sold his Toyota pickup to (or a wedding party in the wrong place at the wrong time).
The “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” clip from “Fantasia” comes to mind with our increasing reliance on drone programs. As John noted, eventually (and not all that long into the future) exclusive control and deployment of this technology will slip out of our hands, and we’ll be unable to control the uses other countries or even wealthy private parties will put it to. That use need not even be directly against us to inflict very awkward collateral damage against US interests.
Also, sooner or later, we’re going to make a dramatic, awkward mistake in targeting, and suffer the consequences of a “friendly fire” incident the CIA and military will be unable to cover up. I’m not even counting here the inadvertent collateral damage inflicted on Pakistani military by the drones (which has given Pakistan the nudge and excuse for factions within that government never happy with the extent of alliance with us to substantially disentangle themselves from us and inconvenience us). But the Pakistani example is merely a mild foretaste of how the drone-attack approach to eliminating undesirables has the potential to bite us back hard in the butt.
Does anyone really think that what the US does with drones will meaningfully affect what other countries do with drones 20-30 years down the line?
It adds a single bullet point in terms of historical precedence legally, but other than that, I’m really not that convinced by “others will do the same!” Others WILL do the same, but that’s because the nature of power and the ability of drones, not because of what Bush, Obama, Romney, or POTUS X do.
That said, I’m generally in line with Cole that the drone war has become too large and too hidden. I just don’t think the slippery slope argument holds any water.
Heck, in the 12th century the Catholic Church tried to ban the crossbow for the same reason. Technology marches on, unfortunately.
Killing people in defense of this nation should be open and in full view of the public, not something decided in a CIA star chamber.
Here’s an issue which has not had much thought, as far as I can tell: the ambiguous legal status of the drone operators and their support structure. Or, that is to say, are they combatants, and if so, are they valid targets for the other side?
If you’re a bomber pilot, it’s pretty clear: you’re in uniform, you’re bearing arms, you can be shot at and killed, and shot down by the other side and held as a POW, and it’s all good and proper according to the laws of war.
But what if you’re a CIA drone operator, and you’re operating your drone out a facility in the Nevada desert while you’re dressed in Dockers and a polo shirt, and you drive their every day in your SUV from your home that you share with your wife and kids.
Would it be an act of war — and not terrorism — for the enemy to target you in that US facility, or on your drive to and from there, or in your house? If not, why not? Are you, per the Bush regime’s own definition, an unlawful combatant, since you are engaging in warfare while not in uniform, and therefore liable to be kidnapped and held for the duration of hostilities?
Paul in KY
@lol: Just wait until they can drop kinetic weapons (a piece of steel going 4 miles a sec) from space on us. That technology will be here in 20 years.
I’m not wild about it either, but I think it’s pretty much an inevitable consequence of the technology being available and the AUMF authorizing it’s use. I honestly can’t imagine a president who wouldn’t use drone strikes if it were available. Obama’s use of drones may be unprecedented, but isn’t that largely because his predecessors didn’t have the option?
Ummm, what? I thought you used to be in the military? Was it your experience that military planning sessions were open to the public? Were there no covert ops before we started using drones?
I mean, I’m not convinced that a military response to terrorism is preferable to a criminal-justice approach, but as Tom Hilton points out above, the AUMF declares AQ a military target and requires the president to act on that. Should the White House just ignore it? If not drones, then what?
Also, too, is the US really the only country that has drones, or are we the only ones who have openly weaponized them? If you can buy them on Amazon, I seriously doubt we’re the only country using them for surveillance.
Surely drones will be used against us by terrorists and hostile states.
It is inevitable. The are perfect terrorist weapons: cheap, untraceable, invisible.
When fighting was conducted by B-52s and B-2s we had an advantage.
How do we defend against these things?
Paul in KY
@Not Sure: Can you shed tears for some poor women/children who were intimidated into serving the enemies & perished with them when we blasted the yurt they were in?
I would note that however much people hate having drones fly over their countries, and however much americans would hate it if it was happening here, I still feel like most people would prefer it to the alternative of having foreign troops marching around their countries.
Objection. False dichotomy.
Some facts, John:
1. Everyone knows you do not hate Obama.
2. Obviously you are coming at this from a principled point of view – no one doubts that you would be just as incensed if the President in this story was a Republican.
3. There is nothing new about the military and CIA engaging in clandestine and covert activities.
4. Some of those clandestine/covert activities – which the military and CIA have been involved in for decades – have involved killing or attempting to kill bad guys.
5. The tendency of the US, over the past several decades, to engage in clandestine and covert operations in attempting to kill bad guys has NOT led to an appreciable rise in other nations’ use of intelligence services and military black ops against the US.
6. Similarly, the fact that the US has used UAVs for surveillance and intelligence gathering for decades (since Vietnam) has NOT inexorably led to other nations’ acquiring and using this technology against us.
7. Finally, unless you are contemplating that Congress hold public hearings before every proposed drone attack, there really is no way to avoid the fact that planning for these types of operations will necessarily need to be done in secret – whether it’s by the CIA, military, or White House itself.
8. Double finally, anyone who paid even the slightest attention to the 2008 campaign knows that the “counterterrorism excesses” Obama objected to emphatically did NOT include drone strikes on Qaeda-linked operatives. Greg Miller is apparently not one of these people.
@wrb: Where are terrorists going to launch them from that we would not detect them? We have the security of sea-to-shining-sea safety.
@Paul in KY: We already, rightly, get accused of treating war like a video game and this just adds to that perception.
Paul in KY
@dedc79: Those people might say that it would be very unlikely/just about impossible for lots of American troops to be in their nation (for whatever the reason & depending upon the nation), yet it seems very easy (too easy) to have these drones dropping from the sky as if by magic.
Gun grabbing faggots!
Shit, people practically invite stalkers on their smart phones, and post directions on their FaceBook pages.
You should fear yourselves as much as you fear the government and the military.
This is what a lot of military experts have been trying to say for years: most countries (including the US) are still set up in a Cold War paradigm where they’re expecting to fight state vs. state. No one is really set up to combat asymmetrical warfare.
Technology is cheap and easy to get, which brings its own set of huge problems that can’t be solved with a B-52.
It’s awesome how quickly this place can turn into Free Republic. Just add criticism of Dear Leader!
As if there’s a difference between a drone and a busboy with a silenced .22, or a squad of Infantry or cruise missiles fired from a submarine.
As one of the guys who has actually fought on the ground in declared wars, I gotta tell you that this thing of yours about drones and cowardice and all of that nonsense is well, just fucking nonsense.
Kill the enemy however you can, in whatever way you can that limits the threats to the lives of my friends and brothers. They do it too. They’re called IEDs, and they spot for them using children with cell phones.
I suppose we could stick to artillery barrages and B-52 airstrikes if that would make you feel better.
The use of “star chamber” proceedings is dictated by the enemy we fight. Would you rather we simply killed every man, woman, and child associated with bin Laden and his lieutenants and did it out in the open? Because that would’ve been legal to use a wing of B-52s at Tora Bora and brought down the mountains on top of them and been done with it, or at his house in Abbottabad.
Do you honestly think that there’s actually a clean way to do any of this?
Once the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping and the planes start crashing into buildings, nobody gets out clean. Why the hell should any of you?
You know what the difference is between you people and me?
I KNOW I’m dirty.
Gin & Tonic
Clandestine (or not so much), targeted killing of strategic or operational leaders (opponents) has been a part of politics since time immemorial.
Paul in KY
@Rafer Janders: IMO, it would be an act of war. As long as the killers were representatives of a nation-state.
Does that reassure you?
The Moar You Know
@wrb: Quit fucking around with that Parrot toy and build yourself a real UAV.
And radio control is for people with too much spare time on their hands. Get a GPS autopilot, send your spyplane up and go get some coffee or something.
Why yes, this is a hobby of mine!
Paul in KY
hey Cole, thanks for this post. Things have gotten entirely too boringly agreeable around here.
Now where’d I put my popcorn…
You tell ’em. The wogs are lucky that we’re only using drones to arbitrarily rain murder from the sky!
Cris (without an H)
@MattMinus: Are you some kind of comment bot? Two of your three comments have been completely removed from the context of the rest of the thread.
This – this sad but undeniable truth – is the most convincing retort to John Cole’s hand wringing, and it needs to be on the front page of this blog.
So do you have an actual point, or are you just running around saying, “Mommy, I made peepee!”
That has been talked about, in particular by Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame School of Law.
The report above’s solution is that these people are “directly participating in hostilities” and yes, then they can be targeted at least where they work.
I welcome counter argument to Mr. Cole’s post. I suspect that spending one’s military service drinking German beer tends to cloud the mind as to what this whole war business is about.
The Moar You Know
@Cris (without an H): Like a reverse Turing test, MattMinus is.
Noticing a lot of GOS posters showing up here in the last few days (MattMinus would be one of those). What happened? Are they doing one of their purity purges over there again?
So what? War-like-a-video-game may sound bad, but it means that more American soldiers and marines get to keep their limbs. It means more American families get to spend the holidays with their sons and daughters.
I think that’s worth a little bit of lousy PR, don’t you?
The US has supported the military in Pakistan, and it has courted US aid, since that nation’s founding. It was part of our stupid “with us or against us” policy that viewed India as commie because it was formally non-aligned. And some of the reaction to the friendly fire disaster is crocodile tears, anger at the US getting bin Laden in Pakistan despite denials that he was hiding there.
There are hints that Pakistan believes that China can fill America’s shoes as an ally. Maybe we should call their bluff.
Paul in KY
@Soonergrunt: A military person is an arm of the state & not a heathen warlord. Sometimes your life will be sacrificed or unnecessarily placed in harm’s way so as to conform to international agreements or for short/long term political reasons. You can & should have no control over that.
I’m sure that was made clear to you. It might be physically better for you & your fellow soldiers to have the killing carried out in a particular manner. However, if that manner is damaging to the state, then you as a military person just have to do your duty & storm the objective in a manner that has a much higher fatality rate. Such is the life of a soldier.
\@The Moar You Know:
I’m not a Turing test, I’m a Rorschach test. Since most of y’all can’t process any sort of unorthodoxy, you project onto me whoever the enemy of the moment is.
I’m a Freeper, KOSsack, randroid, firebagging, cock-man oppressor, PUMA, white power enthusiast.
You want me on that wall! You need me on that wall!
Sorry. I agree with your post, but I couldn’t resist.
There are a lot of excuses for “our guy” being typed here. “They would be worse is a compelling argument, but is it a just one? What is the price this society pays for continually not taking up the difficult struggles of the Just?
Is Obama a just leader or only an expedient one?
The Moar You Know
@MattMinus: Shit, you’re my boss? Fuck.
soonergrunt:“As one of the guys who has actually fought on the ground in declared wars, I gotta tell you that this thing of yours about drones and cowardice and all of that nonsense is well, just fucking nonsense.”
I’m sure it’s nonsense to you; a grunt who wants to get out of the fustercluck alive.
But being a grunt doesn’t make you any expert on moral issues, and you’re wrong on this one.
Quick question, Mr Grunt; would you rather return to the ME war theatre or have a warm, comfy desk job pushing the kill button? ( remember, there’s hot coffee and donuts with the kill button job :)
Why is that “hand wringing”? Why shouldn’t citizens be concerned about the manner in which their nation makes war?
@Tractarian: Sure, but that’s because I’m an American. If it were my wedding party getting bombed I probably wouldn’t.
Did you know that that under Obama the government will send a guy to kill any PUMA that bothers you?
True fact, I had one come out last week.
@Paul in KY:
I just cannot think of a situation where drone attacks would be more “damaging to the state” than an invasion. Sure, UAV attacks can cause collateral damage – but nothing compared to an all-out ground war.
Or do you think that the civilians of Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. would rather us mount a full-scale invasion of their nation rather than pick out our targets one-by-one with guided munitions?
(Unless the alternative you’re talking about is just walking away – no more drones, no more invasions, no more killing. That’s a nice thought; but it has nothing to do with what this thread is about.)
Since kids are so good at those games, why aren’t we recruiting them to run the drones? There’s this kid — Ender is the name — who shows lots of promise (but don’t recruit his sister or brother; they’re kind of intense, you know?).
And this all used to be “science fiction.” Hah!
It is “hand-wringing” for the reasons outlined by soonergrunt @ 61
And, of course, people have every right to be “concerned about the manner in which their nation makes war”. But they have to be realistic about war and the choices involved.
Wrong. What you think are “excuses for our guy” are actually “excuses for our nation” defending itself.
It’s not pretty. It’s not glamorous. Welcome to war.
Paul in KY
@Tractarian: Public Relations damage to our nation & perceived image/creation of enemies from what were friends or the not-interested/dissemination of sophisticated military weapons (drones) into criminal hands.
Blowback that may not occur for 10 or more years.
28 or so dead Pakistan military would like a word with you.
The “invasion” to get OBL had far less blowback than when our drone recently “mistakenly” killed a few dozen of their guys at the border.
When you can get a cricket player to mass 100K+ in the streets then it should be obvious there’s a problem.
And I will respectfully disagree. It’s precisely because war is a dirty business that we should pay attention to how and why it is prosecuted.
That doesn’t mean that I think the use of drones is necessarily wrong. But I appreciate John asking the questions that he does.
Good God, why? Why would anyone want the militaristic stink posted by SG on the..front…page…of
@Linnaeus: Fuck a bunch of “the manner in which their nation makes war”. You get killed you are dead, it doesn’t make on bit of difference how. If people are serious about this shit stop paying taxes that support it and go to jail.
@Tom Hilton: @Tom Hilton:
If there were no AUMF, the administration would claim the inherent authority to carry out drone strikes wherever they see fit, as they have for other elements of our anti-terrorism programs. The AUMF is handy tool when writing a legal brief or memo, no more.
I’m sure the families (if there are any left) of the several hundred wedding party attendees we’ve killed from 7000+ miles away will enjoy receiving a copy of the AUMF for bed time reading.
To clarify, I’m not talking only about weaponry, I’m also including things like tactics, strategy, etc.
Friendly fire incidents and missed targeting happen all the time, with or without drones. Like the times we bombed Switzerland.
The question then becomes, are drone attacks more likely to kill civilians or hit the wrong target than other forms of attack? I don’t think the burden of proof has been met.
@Paul in KY:
Let me get this straight:
“Blowback that may not occur for 10 or more years.”
is worse than
“marines and soldiers being blown apart on the battlefield”
Sure, this specific strike was a major fuck-up. Major fuck-ups happen in war.
I guarantee a lot more than 28 Pakistani military families would be mourning had we done a full-scale invasion or carpet bombed the place.
@Tractarian: Stop fucking kidding yourself. If this came out during a GWB-esque admin this whole blog would be rending their garments, wailing and painting their faces with ash and red paint.
It’s bullshit to say otherwise.
And would we be right to have done so?
Shit, we can’t eliminate friendly fire incidents when we line ’em up face to fucking face (see Tillman, Pat et al).
And we’re going to gloss over knocking down buildings from a button pusher 7000 miles away?
Let me ask a question….
All this parsing of morality and war is window dressing. The Jihadists can all die as far as I’m concerned. That’s not the issue. Here’s the question.
Do you want this turned on YOU?
WILLIAM ROPER: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
SIR THOMAS MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
From the beginning of time, the law of war has evolved more slowly than the art of war.
I’m certainly not opposed to more and better and more timely Congressional oversight, but I worry about that turning into Congressional micro-management.
And Corner Stone’s comment 97 is exactly the sort of 20:20 hindsight that we don’t need. As long as there is war, there will be collateral damage. Even if you take every reasonable precaution to minimize it, it’s still going to happen. The days of armies marching out into an open field to have at it with no civilians around ended shortly after Gettysburg.
Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, “Shit! It’s rainin’!”
-Ruby Thewes, Cold Mountain
That’s all I have to say about that.
@Corner Stone: Depends on who and where and why-if Bush had managed to kill bin Laden I wouldn’t have been too upset either.
War is bad. At least this way kills fewer innocents than most of the others.
I agree that we need to strengthen on-ground intelligence in order to minimize mistakes, and create standards and accountability so that the rights of those targeted can be protected. I certainly would want people to know that there are options for mercy and that we have done all we could to insure that if they wished to take advantage of those options, we would honor that desire.
I guess we could question whether any of that is actually necessary to prosecute our little “war on terror.” I mean, if we’re still allowed to question it.
President Obama didn’t want to use that massive drone arsenal, but he HAD to find some way to make Congress do its fucking jerb!
He’s running out of options to restore co-equal branches!
I loved this post in its entirety.
Clearly, you mean you won’t shed a tear for the appropriately designated legitimate military targets killed, correct?
I mean, those other poor folk…you’ll tip a forty for those dead homies, amirite?
We’re putting it to a vote somewhere?
@Rafer Janders: To riff off your question, what if Mexico launched a drone strike against a cartel boss waiting to cross the border into the US and collaterally damaged a dozen ICE employees?
The issue is, was and will always be, who gets to decide who that enemy target is? And by what process? The admin won’t release how those decisions are made.
Paul in KY
@Tractarian: It can be. Some ‘blowback’ from arming fundamentalist enemies of the USSR hit us on 9/11.
Most of them (the dead) weren’t military.
Look, I don’t like any war, but, as long as we have defense contractors and people in Congress who will do anything to please them, we will have war games. If we didn’t have these drones, you can be damned sure we’d already have begun a war in Iran. The military industrial complex has a lot of power and we are stuck with war until we figure out how to get rid of it. Eisenhower is rolling in his grave.
Not to single this out, but the larger point is that most people wont make such a fine distinction when it comes to a foreign power using their airspace to launch assassin missiles. “Just a drone strike? Thank God its not ground troops!”
Instead of smart bombs, we are going to get dumb bombers. No way drone attacks will be as efficient or careful as a manned flight, since they dont have to be.
We’re going to attack them over an error made while trying to get a cartel boss?
Do have your lawyer let us know if the FBI shows up at your house and snatches you away for expressing your opinion in a blog comment.
Shorter burnspbesq: “Bygones bitchez!”
Sure, and my point is that that will always be true as long as the AUMF or other laws call for the use of the military to combat terrorism. Military operations are not known for openness and transparency, and never have been. You want things to change, you’re going to need to get Congress to rescind or alter the AUMF. Good luck with that.
Calm down. My point was we seem to have jumped over discussing the necessity of all this straight to the part where you talk about whether you need to nuke Japan or risk a million of your soldiers getting killed in a landing.
Shorter Corner Stone: “Let me show you my dazzling command of every nonsensical rhetorical trick in the book in the service of my idiocy.”
That may be your point now, but there was no way to tease that out of your prior comment. Sorry if I misunderstood.
Why is a drone a particularly worrisome thing, compared to other aerial weaponry, or bombs, or missiles, or bullets, or laser beams, or pointy and/or heavy stones? “Drones” doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with anything. Seems like the real issue is itchy trigger fingers on whatever weapon happens to be to hand.
@burnspbesq: Calling my comment “hindsight” and then going along to state that collateral damage will always happen is about the worst type of rhetorical garbage one could commit.
If it’s always going to happen then we knew it was going to happen and that makes it foresight and not hindsight, what, what?
We have met the enemy, the enemy within.
It’s only a matter of time until these are used to help us clean up our own rabble.
The difference is that the drone is less expensive, difficult to deploy, and risky than the other options.
When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail and all that.
Ironically enough, one of the front-pagers at Lawfare posted a couple of weeks ago that there is a respectable statutory-construction argument that says that the AUMF automatically sunsets if we ever get the last guy who was part of the al-Qaeda leadership at the time it planned the 9/11 attacks. I doubt that the Administration will see it that way, but I got a few giggles out of it.
You bloodthirsty bastard. :P
@MattMinus: I think that falls under “itchy trigger finger.”
@MattMinus: I don’t parse assholes that fine.
That’s not the issue raised by this post. It seems to me we’re focusing on drones rather than the important questions.
It’s absolutely worth asking whether the drone campaign in Pakistan is producing worthwhile results, and whether the cost is worth the benefit. I don’t see how arguing about drones per se answers that question.
Yeah, I was just reading through the text of it, and I can see where that argument could be made. But like you said, I don’t see any administration agreeing with that interpretation. Since the AUMF doesn’t contain any clear sunset provisions, any politician who tries to end it will be relentlessly demagogued by his opponents as a terrorist-enabler and quitter.
I think it’s a little more than that. The huge reduction in risk and cost changes the calculus of what separates an “itchy trigger finger” from an entirely appropriate use of available technology.
Maybe a semantic difference, but the way the technology could change norms is the crux for me.
@Scott P.: When discussing drones you must discuss the targeting. How are those targets determined, by whom and by what process? Or else what are we discussing?
Just blanket mention of the AUMF is a cheap way out of what our country is actually doing.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
So, Obama gets criticized for being efficient. And, before we head too much further down this path, the Post’s article isn’t all about drones, but about how Obama is using ever tool at his disposal to do the job that Bush didn’t do. If some of those are bothering people, then maybe it’s time to get Congress to declare an end to the war and bring everyone home, and stop funding the war at the level that gives the president all of these powers.
John does have a bit of a habit of going “BOOGA BOOGA DRONES!” instead of “The technology exists, so let’s take a hard look at how we’re using it.”
Using a drone to target someone for assassination is not inherently worse than sending in a squad to do it. The question should be, who’s being targeted for assassination and why? not the mechanics of the actual operation.
@Xanthippas: Actually, no. It’s a key difference between the Bush and Obama administrations: Bush did whatever the hell he wanted (or what Cheney wanted, maybe) regardless of what Congress passed; Obama is careful to work within the parameters of what Congress (or other controlling authority) has allowed.
There may be room for criticism of the President for doing things Congress shouldn’t have allowed, but in those cases most of the blame still belongs to Congress.
And a blanket refusal to grapple with what the AUMF actually says is a cheap way out of making a real argument instead of just ranting.
@Corner Stone: Collateral damage is a given. The real question is whether drone strikes cause more or less collateral damage than the alternative(s). I don’t know the answer to that question (the article doesn’t address it), but I’m open to any evidence anyone is prepared to present either way.
Paul in KY
@Mnemosyne: When Stalin had Trotsky murdered he didn’t blow up the safe house (which he might have been able to do), he infiltrated an operative & only killed Trotsky.
@Larv: Wait, what?
I’m not sure why anyone can just say this and move on.
Collateral damage is someone knocking over your coffee pot when they reach for the cream. It’s not multiple deaths at multiple and different wedding parties.
I mean, didn’t someone stop to ask themselves a few questions after the first “incident” ?
@Paul in KY:
So the lack of collateral damage made the assassination itself more moral?
I tend to think of them as separate questions: should the person be assassinated (like John Oliver, I didn’t shed any tears over Bin Laden) and, if that determination is made, then you look at the collateral damage that might be required to get that result to decide if it’s worth making the attempt.
@Paul in KY: My point is over here, where there is no moral difference between ways the state determines to kill it’s enemies. Yours is way the hell over there, where “ours is not to wonder why, ours it but to do or die.”
@Baud: Go for it, dude.
@Grunt Master: If the killing has to be done–and that’s a political question, not a tactical one, I’d rather have the cup of coffee to go with it.
Where is it written that the prerogatives of the state must be achieved by dying?
@Raven: What he said.
Forget about it, Jake. It’s Corner Stone.
OT, but some major shit seems to be going on — ain’t it time for an OMG we’re going to war with Iran post??
@Soonergrunt: Yeah, it didn’t make any sense when Larv said it first. Seems about right you’d quote it. Surprised there wasn’t any moral indignation about inherent dirtiness thrown in there for effect, or First Person Shooter POV.
Yawn, Cole dabbling in his Drone Derangement syndrome yet again. And that curious ignore everything good about Obama and use a 1000x magnifying class on everything bad tendency is always just under the surface with 2 time Bush voter and Greenwald koolaid drinker Cole.
@Baud: Ding ding ding. You pretty much nailed the main point of that whole piece which in my mind makes that whole article nothing but excrement with an agenda.
…and that Dog Whistle is tailor made for Coles ears.
@eemom: stirring the pot?
@Corner Stone: Whether I point it out or not, you are still, and always will be a smallish, inconsequential turd, resigned to your little tantrums. That I’ve actually rewarded the pathetic attention-seeking behavior is my bad, but it doesn’t make you any less sad.
Long, long before John gave me the keys you posted stuff in comments that was constructive and thought provoking, even as I disagreed with you about half the time. Did you have a stroke or something? Because about the time Obama was sworn in you rather abruptly became the guy who shits on the coffee table when you don’t like the topic at hand.
Soonergrunt, your perspective is appreciated, but I think Rafer Janders at comment 45 raises to me what is the salient point…
The guy or gal piloting a drone, maybe even nominally a civilian in the CIA who is “fighting” these undeclared conflicts that target people wherever they may be…don’t those targets by the same token have every right to kill our folks in the same way, especially vis a vis targeting that person in their hypothetical suburban house while their hypothetical kids and family are home, etc.
I guess I’m more with Cole on this one – as are the Founders who wrote the Constitution. I would much prefer we follow the credo that only Congress can declare war.
Yeah, sure, you go right on ahead and cite the AUMF, but to me that law is not representative of the will of the people currently. Most people have no clue what it is, because every effort is made by the national security state to let people remain ignorant. In other words, just because it’s there doesn’t mean the AUMF is good law or that it shouldn’t be changed.
And on top of that, it’s also too easy in my mind for folks to wave off the notion that domestic civilian law enforcement won’t start using and abusing this technology.
Fuck it, cops are so lazy now that they routinely taser and pepper spray people merely for not following instructions immediately and instantly. Don’t be lazy, google it and you can see how many abuse stories there are from the last 10 years involving just those two low tech law enforcement tools. If cops get lazy about tasers and pepper spray, they sure as fuck will get lazy with drones and really bad shit will happen to innocent people. Inevitable.
It’s tough for me to see how people can have such an easy time dismissing the real concerns about drones and what we will be using them for 5, 10, 15 years from now. It’s not funny or silly or naive at all to be worried about this shit.
Look, you replied to me at comment #114 with a complaint about the lack of transparency in the targeting of drone attacks. I replied at #121 that the AUMF basically ensures that lack by making terrorism a military issue, to which you didn’t deign to reply. You did reply to ScottP at #136, simply repeating the question I had already replied to, and throwing in a dig at people citing the AUMF for good measure. So your pretense of confusion now seems a little questionable. You’re doing a lot of ranting about the evils of drone strikes and not talking much about the reasons for them or the alternatives to them. Clear enough?
This sounds a bit like “I think most people would rather be shot than poisoned.”
@Larv: People who are blanket defending the use of drones don’t wan’t the hard conversation about the how’s and why’s. That’s why they use the AUMF as a broad brush to toodlie doo away from those scenarios.
Just turning a sentence around and repeating it doesn’t make an argument.
@Soonergrunt: We see life in fundamentally different constructions. I’m for not killing people, whether they wear the same uniform or not.
@Corner Stone: Any operation against al Qaeda would cause collateral damage. Again, the question is whether drones cause more or less than alternative operations. Do you have an answer to this?
Considering the NYT is suing this admin to get more information on how drone strikes are approved, specifically against US Citizens, then I would have to agree.
Yes. Someone always has to decide. I think which side one comes down on in matters such as these is the function of the degree of trust one has in the decision makers.
@Tom Hilton: We stopped doing body counts in Nam. Surely, as an avid war supporter you are aware of this.
This article is like catnip for firebaggers. They are certainly crawling out of their cracks to make their typical “the black helicopters are coming to get us” statements.
More and more tools and less and less training. It’s inevitable they will continue to fall back on the “easy/lazy” way out.
Look at all the reports during the GWB admin of the FBI following pizza delivery people due to false leads on FISA warrants. And all the abuses therein.
@Corner Stone: And what makes you think that I AM for killing people?
Just because it was my job doesn’t mean that I reveled in it, or that I wanted to do it or that I ever thought it was the appropriate manner of dealing with our problems as a nation. It is but one tool among many, and like tools, they break from misuse while others degrade from non-use.
The use of armed force as a first or primary tool is fundamentally a result of failures of leadership and national imagination.
No, but it’s a useful device for pointing out hypocrisy. You claim that the defenders of using drones don’t want to talk about how and why, but I haven’t exactly seen you tackling that issue.
I honestly have no idea what this is supposed to mean. What scenarios? Look, I think the AUMF sucks. It’s a shitty law, but it is the law, and as such it mandates certain things, primarily that the President should combat AQ and anti-US terrorism militarily. Targeted drone strikes are safer and have a lesser potential for blowback than other military means. That doesn’t mean that they’re ideal, or that there won’t ever be civilian casualties, but all in all I think it’s probably the best of a bad lot. If you have a better idea, please share.
Did you oppose the killing of OBL?
@Donut: So what you’re saying is that you’re OK with military force as long as some of our people get killed in the process because that would make the people on the ground feel more manly? Cause if you’re not saying that, then I don’t understand.
I’d rather not use force at all if it’s not worth risking people getting killed, but once the decision is made, I’d rather do it in the way that is least dangerous to our people (which coincidentally leads to less collateral damage*) because I actually value the people doing it.
*People who have had a good night’s sleep, aren’t in fear for their lives, aren’t physically and emotionally exhausted, and have access to much higher levels of processed information tend to make fewer bad judgement calls.
@Soonergrunt: Further to my last, in reference to Rafer’s note that fighting the enemy in certain ways is more comporting with the laws of war–ie, they shoot down your bomber, you become a POW. They also likely torture you for years. That’s not within the LLW or IHL. Having said that, I wish somebody would actually look at the laws of war for longer than the time it takes to cite them as a rhetorical cudgel, and they might figure out that the salutary effect of Laws of Land Warfare and International Humitarian Law with respect to warfare have only ever served to make war more palatable and therefore more likely. As long as nation-states can cloak themselves in some kind of robe of honor or they can limit the truly deleterious effects of warfare on their populations, wars will continue to be started and waged throughout the world. Al Quaeda may be a club of mass-murdering psychopaths with daddy issues who mostly kill for the sheer joy of it, surrounded by a few true believers in the cause, but at they aren’t hypocrites about what they are doing.
There is NO moral difference, and precious little operational difference between a drone operator and suicide VBIED (which almost always have remote controls for the explosives package). The legal difference between those methods or between those methods and a B-1 strike is a sick joke perpetrated by people who will never take responsibility for their actions, decisions, or beliefs.
I said it before and I’ll say it again–at least I KNOW I’m dirty.
Good God, you military industrial complex teat-sucker from hell, just fuck off with your war porn bullshit.
Luv ya, CS, but it’s pretty obvious Tillman was murdered accidentally on purpose.
Look, we know that you’re not very bright, but must you pre-shit your own diaper? I mean, most people at least try to read what they’re replying to in the first sense, or at least say something that has a passing acquaintance with reality in the second.
I won’t be doing either. Although it doesn’t make this right, President Obama is still far better than anyone being offered by the Grand Old Obstructionists.
Thing is, no one who seeks the power of the Presidency should be counted on to pare any of it back him/herself (not even a President Ron Paul). It’s up to the people to pressure Congresscritters on both sides of the aisle to do that.
If you’re serious about what you wrote, you’re a dumbass.
That’s the beauty of this community, you can’t tell if a comment like that is serious or not!
dance around in your bones
Now you’re just a piece of pie.
What’s this “we” shit, killer? I was talking directly to YOU.
HAHAHAHAHA…you fucking love war and killing. That’s why you went to work for the most deadly war machine on the planet. That’s why you fought and killed next to your “brothers,” and that’s why you continue to work for the MIC even after you “retired.” hahahaha
Your Reluctant Warrior schtick stinks to high heaven. Shove it back up your ass, killer.
Jesus John. Your posts are so terrific. Cat fights ensue every time you post. Thanks.
Jesus John. Your posts are so terrific. Cat fights ensue every time you post. Thanks.
Jesus John. Your posts are so terrific. Cat fights ensue every time you post. Thanks.
Not really a very good terrorist weapon. How do they weaponize one? It’s much easier to load up a van with fertilizer and fuel than to get the weapons that would make a drone a serious threat. If they had access to the kinds of weapons that make these drones lethal, they wouldn’t need drones to use them.
Although the attacks on you, Soonergrunt, are over the top, let’s be honest. People that I know that joined the military fall mainly into two categories. First, there are those that went in for economic reasons. Most of the others went in because they thought being a soldier was cool. They wanted a chance to go into battle. This is particularly true for Marines. Why do you suppose retention rates are so high during wartime, and conversely suffer when no conflicts are happening or imminent?
Soonergrunt, I don’t know your heart, or your reasons for enlisting, but if it was because you really wanted to be a warrior, then it seems ridiculous that you would deny wanting to kill people. It may have become anathema to you once killing people became a reality, but why sign up for a job which has killing people at its very core, if you believe that killing people is so repugnant?
well…part of this is just what happens with mil R&D cycle.
the US invested a shitload of money in drone tech because after C4I teleop and telepresence is the next phase invoked by the think tanks.
But drones are counterproductive in “counter-insurgency” ops because of SNT– they create more hostiles than they eliminate.
What drones do very effectively is to destabilize American client dictators and puppets that allow their citizens to be droned– thus the deaths of al-Awlaki in Yemen and OBL in Pak….Saleh and Zardari gave up the geo-loc of their insurance trump cards.
Obamas drone program is just attempting to maintain American global influence on the cheap. Its pragmatic, because we have invested beaucoup bucks in something, and we are the world lead (temporarily).
But as we have seen in Iran, counter-strats evolve.
Its just another heat in the arms race.
the next phase is going to be super-scary.
i cant wait.
Dear God, only CornerStone and Xanthippas are making any sense on this.
@Donut: Unless law enforcement plans to start using predator drones to take out OWS protestors or blow away folks who run a red light, I could care less. There’s really no difference between being spied on by a helicopter and being spied on by a unmanned drone. You don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re in a public space.
Many posts in this thread have been about drone operators sitting comfortably miles away. But to a large degree, targeting depends on local information. And the costs are steep, according to this recent LA Times story:
The targeting of CIA operatives not to long ago was related to going after local controls.
Drones are not some magical resource deployed by the US and other countries. For every measure, there is a counter measure.
it all depends if you believe in “Just War Theory”.
personally, i think there is no sucha thing as a “just” war.
Sooner and his cohort were tossed into an immoral, unjustifiable, unwinnable meatgrinder for two reasons; 1. attempting to eliminate terrorism and 2. sharing our infinitely superior secular culture with freedom of speech and freedom of religion and womens rights.
both of those objectives, while ostensibly noble and generous, were doomed to catastrophic failure.
Also big agree.
It seems you have an extremely practical viewpoint about violence and war, and your viewpoint is easy to (mis?) interpret as advocacy of violence.
So don’t get offended by comparisons of the morality of various means of killing, because morals aren’t practical.
@moderateindy: I don’t believe killing people is repugnant to the point of being wholly excluded from possible courses of action. I believe it should be the last course of action. This isn’t difficult if you put forth any effort at all.
Look, I realize that separating people into binary sets makes things easy for you. You don’t have really think about it or actually expend any effort. I get it.
You’re right. You don’t know any of the reasons I enlisted or reenlisted. Everything else you said was intellectually lazy claptrap, even if it was nicely worded and written in a semi-sympathetic and incredibly condescending tone.
I don’t owe you, or anyone else an explanation for anything. And I damn sure don’t owe a droolingly-stupid, mentally incompetent black and white paste-eater like Kola Noscopy anything more than a good hard shove in front of a train. If she ever had anything useful to say, the law of large numbers tells us she would’ve said it by now, even if only accidentally. That she has never said anything that was useful or even interesting in any context on this board but instead had only ever posted hyperbolic melt-downs and personal attacks tells me everything I need to know about her.
The subject of all of my comments here has been that the idea that killing people with drones is only less morally repugnant than using Soldiers, or bombers, or artillery to do it is fucking stupid, immoral, and lazy. There’s something seriously wrong with anyone who thinks that they can find a way to do it and have it be morally acceptable because of the way it was done. If you accept one way but not another, you are both stupid and hypocritical. These are simple concepts.
This kind of half-assed hair splitting is trying to say that it’s OK to kill people one way but not another. That’s so vapid and intellectually and morally bankrupt that it should be obvious to any ethical being with half a brain. It’s an extension of the idea that we can have laws for warfare to make warfare less onerous. You might as well say it’s OK to kill people on odd-numbered days but not even-numbered ones. It has the exact same moral and intellectual value, which is to say, none.
Apparently fragments from a drone-launched missile warhead are somehow less morally acceptable to some people than bullets from a rifle or the shockwave of an FAE bomb.
I’ll even go farther to say that if you pay your taxes, you are responsible for the killing we do in your name. All of it. By every method. You live in a democracy and that makes you responsible for the government. Unless you went to jail for tax evasion the last several years, you need to stop trying to claim any kind of high ground at all. You just sound pathetic.
Try to escape your moral and ethical responsibility if you think you can, but I know better.
I am watching the evolution of this technology closely. My sense is that it is part of the robotics revolution that will sweep 21st century civilization the same way the PC swept the 20th.
Soon there will be millions of drones, and other military robots, as well as robot cars, robot domestic servants, robot salespersons, robot surgeons.
All of this will unfold before the end of this century, I believe. It will be the most revolutionary change in human history. A new species of intelligence existing alongside us.
War is only a tiny, if leading, part of it.
Will you like/love robots? Will your best friend in the whole world be a robot? Will your lifetime partner be a robot? The issues to be negotiated are stunning and profound, and it is far deeper than just about war.
Only to stupid people.
People are writing as if the only alternatives are either to kill people all around the world by remote control, or to have American troops everywhere killing each other up close.
I have a better idea: leave other countries the fuck alone. The Cold War is over, and there’s no longer a justification for having American troops in a hundred different countries. A little over a month ago, the president announced a plan to base 2500 Marines in Australia. Why? The Australians can defend themselves, they are nearly as rich per capita as we are, and that’s 2500 young men and women forced to serve 10,000 miles from home. Certainly there could be exceptions for emergencies, but we could take the money we are flushing away overseas and use it instead to build at home.
And then what will you do?
Probably make more senseless justifications I’m sure.
What a sick individual you are. Stop trying to put your trigger pulling off on others. You did it. Not a taxpayer. You signed up, took the training and money and killed others as ordered.
Don’t make this as some moral suasion to abstain your DIRTY guilt.
Best John Cole post of the year had to be the one where he described a drone attack on his neighborhood in WV.
Drone War in Numbers
Total reported killed: 2,373 – 2,997
Civilians reported killed: 391 – 780
Children reported killed: 175
Total strikes: 309
Obama strikes: 257
2008 election was a mandate on ending the Bush era wars. Of stopping the slow bleeding of lives and money into the pit that is war. That got lost somehow.
And John, I figure one day, in your evolutionary political curve, you’ll be farther left than GG and the only one farther left will be ED Kain, but if you could find some of the fire from the old days on the right, and direct it from the left, that could help. There should be dissent, there should be discussions of what liberal ethics are, or should be. 2012 is a foregone conclusion, but 2016 might be the nexus for real change.
Right. Meet your Fan Club.
Look at how far the goalposts have moved, and how easily people are misdirected into talking about the efficacy of technology instead of the legality and even the wisdom/morality of such actions. That’s pretty much in vogue, as today most people from the Charlie Sheen School of Winning think wisdom and morality are for suckers – forgetting that a judicious application of wisdom would have kept us out of the quagmire that was Iraq.
The Congress can pass whatever it wants, but it can’t just magically erase international jurisprudence, they can just go ‘lalala’ and pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s realpolitik, but it also lays bare the any support for international institutions like the International Criminal Court, where ‘wars of aggression’ like Iraq are very likely illegal by standards an earlier and less rogue United States helped to ratify.
Wisdom and morality go hand in hand with the understanding that you and I wouldn’t want this happening to our neighborhood, and indeed that by the Code of Hammurabi, we should be suffering much more ‘collateral damage’ to our own population. The double standards are so enshrined as to seem to be conventional wisdom: why if a military base of ours in Ubekibekistanstan is attacked, thats ‘an attack on US soil’ because we claim to own part of another country!
Indeed, the reason for secrecy in the drone attacks is because of their highly illegal and immoral nature. Nothing new here, of course, because the lessons were learned in Vietnam and Cambodia, and Central America in the 80s that they could get away with this shit if they kept it on the DL.
He prolly won’t care, but I give Soonergrunt a pass on all this because it wasn’t his job to care about legalities – he just wanted to cover his buddy’s back and save his team’s skins, so he would’ve gladly lobbed anything at whoever was going against him, Depleted Uranium, Napalm, tactical nukes, whatever. What he couldn’t address was the dubious legality of the conflicts he was placed into. Now that he’s outside of his former job, he falls back on familiar authoritarian tropes about ‘no rules in war’ ‘law of the jungle’ etc. which are demonstrably false in the aftermath of last centuries World Wars, but which have a visceral and atavistic feeling of righteousness. I admire his willingness to acknowledge the dirtiness of his former job, however, I strongly disagree that ‘we’ sanctioned it, or even that Iraq was attacked to protect ‘us,’ since that falsehood was blown away a long time ago. And sorry, as bad as IEDs suck, there’s a world of difference between fighting an Army and fighting the local resistance. You’d think that the generations raised on ‘Red Dawn’ might understand this, but no.
I’ve often suspected that the hidden strategery of the GWOT is they anticipated, and even welcomed more attacks on US soil, because that would widen the scope of violence and retribution even further. What a shame that it never materialized, and now the military is forced to gin up mighty enemies that cleverly disguise themselves as wedding parties.
Don’t have time or inclination to wade back into this, but wanna say I do not agree with the vet-bashing bullshit. Personally attacking someone who served in the military is pretty whack. WTF.
Adding, I have no problem picking a fight over an actual issue or policy disagreement. It’s the personal invective that is pretty disgusting. You may disagree with someone but it’s bullshit to denigrate a vet solely because that person served. I am no fan of the military industrial complex as it is, but it’s also damn stupid to think we could exist as a country or have the way of life we have without a fucking military. That’s a basic starting point.
Odd interpretation of my post soonergrunt. I was not talking about the morality of killing the enemy, regardless of method. I was speaking simply about intellectual honesty. If you joined the military because you viewed the concept of being a soldier as appealing, then it’s hard to believe that you really saw killing the enemy as something abhorrent. Considering killing people is essentially a soldiers job description. So, yes, I do make a distinction between people that enlisted because that was the only acceptable economic option for them, and people that signed up because they wanted to be a soldier/warrior. I find it more tragic when someone gets hurt or injured when they were only there because their economic situation made joining the military the only viable option for their future, as compared to the guy that signed up because they thought being a soldier was cool, or manly, or whatever. I would say to them that it sucks that you were hurt, but you got injured doing something that you wanted to do, and that would be being a soldier.
If you joined up because you wanted to go to war, and now you feel guilty about it, my sympathy for you is tempered by the fact that you thought war, and being a soldier was a cool idea. The fact that someone enlists because they really liked the idea of being a soldier, means that they liked the idea of killing. If you can’t be intellectually honest about that, well that’s your problem. You’re probably one of those people that claim that you hunt just to be close to nature. Sorry, but for the most part people hunt because they need the food, or because they get a rush from killing shit.
I take no high and mighty stand on the hunter or the soldier. In the hunter’s case, particularly in areas like deer hunting, I’m glad they’re out whacking Bambi. It culls the herd and keeps the rest of the deer from suffering a much worse fate. Besides, someone kills an animal or two daily so I can enjoy a meal. Likewise, I don’t think a soldier is a scumbag because they kill the enemy, because it is something that at times must be done, and I sure as hell don’t want to do it. It’s not the soldier’s fault if the war he gets sent to is a horrible debacle.
Your silly point about being responsible for the war if you pay taxes, does raise an interesting argument. If you were a supporter of a war and voted for a politician based in part because of their support, are you morally responsible for that war? I would say yes. But here is the real question i would ask. If you joined the military for any reason, are you responsible for any war we fight? One of Ike’s observations about the MIC was that if we have a large military with lots of weapons we will always find a reason to justify having those things. If no one signed up to be a soldier would we go to war as readily as we do now? Or would the powers that be just reinstate the draft so they could continue as they pleased. And the deeper question is as a society, and as individuals, should we do things that encourage people to enlist? For instance, I had an acquaintance overseas whose sister use to get big care packages together for soldier’s in her unit. I always ponied up and bought stuff like sock,s and tuna in a pouch, along with other things I was told would make life easier. But if you oppose the war should you do things that made soldiers more comfortable, or should you want a soldier’s life in combat to be as miserable as possible so that nobody wants to be a soldier?
If you paid your taxes, you’re part of the system that feeds that machine. Corner Stone and others can try all they want to avoid that, but they know, deep down, that they can’t.
I have no problem with my guilt, CS. I’ve said multiple times, in this thread, that I’m probably the only one who actually does. I know your guilt too. That just kills you, I’m sure, but I can’t do anything about your moral failings. Hating on me won’t make you less culpable for willfully supporting something you see as evil, instead of having the moral courage to do everything possible to stop it. I have more respect for Anti-war protesters who get arrested, including those who commit acts of violence. They at least stand up for their beliefs. You just whine on the internet.
@moderateindy: As far as your post goes here, sorry. Still intellectually lazy claptrap.
“I don’t believe killing people is repugnant to the point of being wholly excluded from possible courses of action. I believe it should be the last course of action. This isn’t difficult if you put forth any effort at all.”
There is no difference in moral value between shooting the enemy with a rifle and pushing a button in Nevada that commands a drone over Tagab, Afghanistan to fire off a missile. Any attempt to distinguish one from the other must fail because the end result is the same.
As for why I initially joined the Army, not that it’s any business of yours, I didn’t have a whole hell of lot of prospects. My grades in high school weren’t good enough for a scholarship and my parents couldn’t afford it so I joined initially for the college money. They best college money was in the combat arms, so that’s where I went. I found a calling in the physical and intellectual challenges involved in perfecting the craft of Soldiering, and I enjoyed camaraderie of barracks life. For various and sundry reasons, the vast majority of which do not fit into your binary construct of bloodthirsty killer/poor economic draftee, I reenlisted. I’m sorry I don’t fit your mold. Take me as I am or not at all.
@Roy G.: Save the condescension and arrogance until you’ve actually said something that wasn’t about as deep as a piece of paper. What I said, and you have conflated into something else, is that the idea that one can make war cleaner or more morally acceptable by rules or laws is as fucking ignorant as the idea that a killing people by drone is somehow morally different than killing people by rifle or knife. The end result of adding laws to warfare was the result that was desired in the first place in the 1700s. To make war a more palatable option in international relations by removing the horrors of it from the people who support it through their industry and property is to make war more likely. Please show me a war somewhere that was made shorter and did less damage by adherence to LLW or IHL.
As for whether or not “we” sanctioned it, well, “we” did. Unless you worked actively to prevent it, and refused to be part of the system that supports it, you sanction it. That’s not the same as pulling the trigger, but you’re still covered in stink. How you choose to deal with that fact is your issue, not mine. As to Iraq, I have never, anywhere, ever said that we attacked Iraq to protect the country from anything.
Paul in KY
@Mnemosyne: The lack of collateral damage (i.e. innocents being killed in the attempt) did make it more ‘moral’. Although I’m sure Stalin had very pragmatic reasons for that decision.
Paul in KY
@Samara Morgan: WW II was a ‘just’ war (IMO).
Now that this thread is getting old, there’s something else I’d like to add here:
Although everyone focuses on killer-drones. Actually only a small part of the drone missions are strike missions. The vast majority of drone missions are surveillance of one kind or another.
Furthermore as Soonergrunt has implied above: Many of the strike missions, carried out by drones, could be done with only a modest loss of capability, by manned strike aircraft, or cruise missiles. So the strike missions are not a critical part of the drone paradigm, and could be dropped in most cases, in principle. e.g. CIA has recently suspended drone strike operations in Pakistan.
So what is really going on here?
To give you a sense of what I believe it is, I suggest you look at this link. Note that this drone is being equipped with a new 1.8 Gigapixel color camera.
That is 900 times higher-resolution than a Full High Definition TV.
What does that tell you about the image-processing capabilities of the “back end”?
IMHO The really important thing about the drones is not the drones. It is the systems they feed their data into. That is the real revolution that dronewar represents. Dronewar is the outward manifestation of a revolution in information processing. Call it computer vision +. Though it is really much more than that.
+ Note: The 3D map of NYC was 720p or approximately 1 Megapixel, not 1.8 Gigapixels like the Argus imager.
To focus on the drones and their strike capability, and not to understand the much more significant revolution in surveillance, is to miss the forest because you can only see the occasional tree.
@THE: zactly. this phase of the tenner R&D cycle is teleop and telepresence. the last phase was C4I.
the next tenner is nanotech.
we arent there with strong AI (what you are describing) yet.
we wont have have robot soldiers unless we can survive the nanobots.
@THE: but what is dronewar good for?
its teh sukksor at suppressing counter-insurgency, because of SNT.
we need biomemes to fight counterinsurgency Spock.
actually….”we” did, Sooner. I saw the IMMINT. it was very plausible that Uncle Saddam was hiding WMDs. the problem was by the time we figgered out that Uncle Saddam was just trying to spoof the Iranians into thinkin’ he had nukes, “we” had already decided on the Missionary Option.
ie, COIN, Peaceful Democracy Theory and the Bush Doctrine/Freedom Agenda.
im sorry they did that to you and your fellow soldiers.
@Roy G.: not legality, morality.
@Samara Morgan: You don’t watch the field is your problem.
@THE: but what good is surveillance if you cant effect a desirable outcome in the population?
its like the national assets data on Saddam’s WMDs. it was all spoof.
like i said…i know these guys.
they are gunna back nanotech, not strong AI, for the next cycle.
they distrust strong AI anyways.
think about a swarm of self-replicating nanobots that instantly turns the adversary’s mecha to rust.
or a biomemetic Rawling virus variant.
the glamour of power, the glamour of evil.
or a cyber virus that clobbers the enemy’s C4I.
its a paradigm shift Spock.
Pure surveillance doesnt buy us anything anymore.
That is the lesson of Iraq and A-stan.
we can see in the dark, see through clouds, see through the ground– so what?
that is the riddle of steel.
@Samara Morgan: I am not responsible for what Bush and his cronies claimed.
I was responding to Roy G’s statement:
(Boldface mine) which implies that I made some claim that “Iraq was attacked to protect ‘us,’” when I have never made that claim anywhere at any time, in any forum.
@Soonergrunt: fair enough, but why did you serve then? did you serve COIN?
@THE: like Mitch said, the place where US mil R&D is gunna support strong AI is economics.
not the battlefield. its not cost viable.
I think what American collective guilt obscures is that the US mil thought it could shape population policy by killing individual people.
Droning is useless for that because of Social Network Theory.
Droning is good for surveillance, but surveillance cant shape culture.
Soon there will be millions of robots Samara. They will outnumber the humans.
@Soonergrunt: I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, but now I see why you have such a negative following here.
First, despite it being so beneficial to you, the military should not be a jobs program. That’s great you got some money and a job out of the trillion plus dollar boondoggle, but at what cost to the country, and indeed to your own soul?
Second, your argument about ‘we’ is sophist to the extreme, especially since I fought hard against the Iraq War, knowing that it was a fraud up front, and how much damage it would ultimately do to our own country. Your argument might as well say ‘we’ were at fault for the Bush Administration, because ‘we’ elected him – Supreme Court notwithstanding. And, oh yeah, while you were kicking around Okie land looking for a job, I was living downtown in NYC, and lived through the before, during and after of 9/11 from close range. No, you didn’t do it for me, and most everyone in New York City realizes that lie.
You want us to share in your ill-fated adventures, but again, no; many of us tried to save you and this country from the massive mistakes of the GWOT. Iraq was a straight up crime, and Afghanistan is not the ‘good war’ that some so desperately want to make it out to be.
I don’t expect deep reasoning from any grunt, and you have failed to disappoint – you want to pretend everything is the law of the jungle, and ignore the crimes of aggression that you want to pretend were ‘wars.’
@THE: so? they wont be milbots.
the military doesnt trust AIs to be supersoldiers.
Well soonergrunt you do fall exactly within my binary construct. You were the economic refugee. You stated it plainly. As far as reenlistment goes, well that is a whole other matter. I only know a couple younger kids that have served in the Iraq/Afghan conflicts, and while neither were big supporters of the conflicts, both re-upped. The reason was basically the same for both. They didn’t want to leave their fellow soldiers. They felt that they owed it to their buddies in their unit to stay and watch their backs. So obviously the closeness that you form to your brothers accounts fora great part of the high retention rate. Also, something else I found interesting was that both said something akin to, “what else were they going to do”? Because not being in combat was odd, and they didn’t feel quite right sitting around doing nothing. Which to be honest was pretty alarming to me.
By the way, I have never argued that killing people is always unacceptable. Nor have I pretended their is any difference between whacking someone face to face or via drone, you might actually want to respond to what I said in my post, when you are responding to my post.
Finally on the drone verses on the ground battle question, I am of two minds. First, anything that can be done to keep our soldiers out of harms way is basically a good idea. Conversely, If we make armed conflict too sanitary on our end, then it becomes much more acceptable to the country as a whole, and thus much easier for the Pentagon and the Pols to pursue. Lets be perfectly honest, only a tiny fraction of the citizenry actually give a crap that we are using drones to off suspected terrorists, and only a few more actually care that innocent civilians may get caught in the crossfire.
You keep focusing on strike.
After 2014, The Afghan National Army will handle most of the strike.
what Afghan National Army?
After 2014 the talibs will roll into Kabul and dip Karzai’s head in tar and put it on a pike on the roof of the American Embassy.
the battlefield is not “deal making”.
get a clue.
I think the US withdrawal has been carefully structured. It coincides with a whole slew of important technological and political and economic developments.
Actually I am not completely sure that the US will continue to support Afghanistan. Mainly because I am not sure that the US considers it important enough to its ongoing national interests any more. All I’d say is that if the US wants to continue to support the post-2014 Afghanistan, it has the means to do so.
There is much evidence that other rising regional powers are starting to take up important aspects of the slack anyway. The future Afghanistan will be integrated into the regional economies because of its resource wealth. I don’t believe Pakistan’s ISI will dominate it through their Taliban proxy. If your sources are saying so, IMHO your sources are very naive.
After USA leaves officially, there are at least three major regional powers with a serious commercial interest in Afghanistan, and a desire that it not be used as a training base for Islamist insurgency. They are Russia, China, India. USA has a partial interest in the success of the postwar Afghanistan. So make that four major powers.
Furthermore Russia and China and Iran only ask one thing of Karzai: That Afghanistan export resources, not opium. I think Karzai or his successors will oblige, in exchange for large-scale investment.
So I don’t see the future of Afghanistan the way you do. I don’t think Pakistan will control it. As for US I believe the other regional powers would rather the US left. But that does not mean a return to the status quo ante bellum. I believe there is very little chance of that.
@THE: in the out years you maybe right.
but i predict the immediate aftermath of US withdrawal is going to be Karzai gets whacked.
He is too tainted with American patronage.
Karzai could be hit at any time.
So many of his political allies have been murdered.
His brother, etc.
Meanwhile, although he is not very popular in US,
he is building quite close relationships with:
Can’t have too many links per post or I end up in moderation:
Very important interest from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Afghanistan may join the SCO eventually.
America, the powerless hyperpower, is still shutout.
No permanent airbases FOR YOU.
i think this is gunna taint Karzai forevah.
China or India could prop Karzai, but the new political landscape means his chickens are coming home to roost eventually, just like Mubaraks, Zardaris and Salehs.
lol, and just think how well received India’s support would be!
Nevertheless India has thousand year ties to Afghanistan.
It is a far more successful power than Pakistan.
Like the vale of Kashmir?
There are problems on all sides there Samara.
As always you suffer from one-eyed vision.
This needs a balanced viewpoint that emphasizes the progressive path. What would lead to a permanent end to these divisions?
Danger Room earlier had some clues about how arrays of low resolution photosensors can be combined into super-high resolution imagers.