I’ve talked about our cavalier use of drones, our lack of a clear policy, how they create more terrorists, how armed drones will inevitably be an accepted police practice (something that used to be mocked but maybe not so much after Ferguson and the exposure of the 1033 program) and the damage they do to our nation’s reputation, and usually am met with catcalls about being a dudebro or a Greenwald lover or a hysteric (“Would it be better if they were shot?” ala Archie Bunker- and really, you sound that stupid), so I’ve basically given up talking about it here. What’s the point? You mention drones and the usual suspects go into full on defense mode as if this is an attack on Obama, when it’s really about the future of our nation and the place in the world and ending our constant involvement in overseas war, death, and destruction. So I’ll just outsource this to John Oliver so you can shit all over him.
What he said.
I had to go read about it because I can’t view videos at work, but Oliver is making the same mistake you are about drones. There is no difference between the use of the drones and the use of manned aircraft. I realize the internet wasn’t as big during Clinton’s time, but was everyone shitting their pants in Kosovo when Clinton only used air strikes? I remember a number of errant bombs, and the news over them.
I think the issue is there is too much bombing, regardless of whether the bombs are dropped by aircraft with pilots or those without.
Cluster bombs are designed to inflict collateral damage on civilians, or at least that is considered a feature and not a bug. Drones are not.
@Belafon: Hey, it’s the theoretical possibility that a live pilot at 30,000 feet in the middle of a package that includes jamming aircraft and anti-antiaircraft planes might get shot down by a guy with an AK that makes it fair.
The difference is that drones can be used to a much higher capacity. That’s the point. It’s easier for us to execute a drone attack (no risk of pilot life, etc.), so we do it more often.
The idea that if drones went away, the same level of attacks would be conducted by manned planes, is crazy.
I was in high school for most of Clinton’s time, but people shitting their pants over air strikes specifically would have been eclipsed by the thunderous sound of pants shitting over the “Draft Dodger in Chief deciding we were the World Police” and/or BRAC. Still, from what I remember from being a typically politically-unaware teenager, the airstrikes were pretty unpopular in certain quarters.
@Rex Tremendae: Bingo, and that’s the point Oliver made early in his presentation. Look at all the hullabaloo surrounding the current bombing over Syria and Iraq — it is seen in many quarters as a re-engagement in a war we had the good sense to quit a couple of years ago. Almost no one here in the US thinks of drone operations that way. It’s cheap, low-risk and out of sight, so people don’t give a shit.
@NCSteve: Who gives a shit about fair? If you are dropping bombs on people there’s no point in being “fair”. The fairness argument is the absolute dumbest argument against drones.
If countries do not want drone strikes, they should quit supporting terrorists and/or use terrorists as a foreign policy tool.
Fuck, if Pakistan’s ISI quit supporting the Taliban, Afghanistan would be a lot more stable and they would no longer receive drone strikes and we would not need to keep forces their for such a long damn time.
My sympathy for these countries is low.
They created and continue to feed a monster, but they do not want to face the consequences when the monster gets out of control.
Fuck it. They can end the drone strikes in a hurry, by no longer funding the terrorists in their borders.
I respectfully decline your kind offer to shit on Mr. Oliver, and will continue to shit on you instead. Your position on this issue never made a lick of sense, and still doesn’t.
no they aren’t. they’re designed to hit a wide area with a single munition.
@Belafon: There is a big, big difference. On the faint chance that you’re not being disingenuous, let me explain:
Manned airstrike: Relatively high risk, expensive; gets A LOT of attention when things go wrong. Thus, A LOT of attention goes into deciding/justifying their use. Result? Not used much.
Drone strike: Low risk, almost no attention paid when things go wrong (as the piece points out, we pretty much don’t even bother to monitor whether and to what extent things go wrong). Thus, much less attention goes into deciding/justifying their use. Result? Indiscriminate use. Further result? The people living under drone airspace KNOW the level of thoughtlessness being ascribed to their lives. Lasting result? More anti-American hate, more terrorists.
IF the US made the same effort deciding their use and IF the US made the same effort at monitoring and describing outcomes, then at the very least we’d cut down on the hate. As it is, we’re not even pretending to take the issue seriously.
@gene108: Not to go all quasi-Godwin on you, but that’s remarkably similar to the rationale bin Laden used to attack American civilians.
Drones have only been in regular use for what, 10 years? There were terrorists trying to attack us before that. Just saying.
As others have pointed out above, it’s not just drones, but mass-killing bombardments in general (regardless of the delivery platform).
That aside, 100% endorsement. What Cole said.
TBogg loves him some drones! Funny, he seemed smart enough to understand it alas he doesn’t.
@gene108: You seem to think that the people of these countries actually have some control over those events, that they have control over both their government AND control over terrorist organizations, and that they therefore are to blame for random death from the skies.
Hell, you’re living in a supposed republic where you get to vote the bastards out. Do you think you have that much control over what YOUR government does? That you have control over some wacko militia units on the Mexican border?
Dead is fucking dead.
@blueskies: You comment sounds logical. But I don’t know if I buy it. I mean, how much do we value pilot life? Don’t know. And how often are pilots actually shot down? Don’t know. By “if something goes wrong”- what something? If we bomb the wrong thing? Or if we lose the plane? It seems like we used to fire missiles at targets fairly often too. I don’t know. I want to agree with what you’re saying, but I’m skeptical.
@gene108: Ah, the classic “if you’ve done nothing wrong” argument.
And nice deflection by talking about “countries” and their behavior. Because the members of those blown-up wedding parties can certainly directly influence their country’s foreign policy.
ETA: Yeah, what blueskies said.
@gene108: I’m pretty sure the Syrian government doesn’t support ISIS/ISIL. But we’ll work to overthrow them anyway.
@blueskies: I think Gene’s point was the governments of the countries where the drone strikes occur share part of the blame, I don’t think he was blaming the citizens of those countries.
Pakistan’s support of Taliban has little to do with the drone strikes or any US policy for that matter, it has mostly to do with Pakistan’s obsession with India and by Pakistan I mean the Pakistani military which has been in charge since Jinnah died.
ETA: The world does not revolve around the US foreign policy, whether it be drone strikes or diplomacy, governments of different countries do what they think is in their self interest. Drones create terrorists is an argument that does not hold much water.
I think it’s the thin end of the wedge. I side with John Cole on the basic wrongness of it AND on the way it’s being spun as beneath notice (though I’m not convinced it’s a difference in kind: is this so different from razing villages in Vietnam?)
I’m not as sure that abandoning all of it will solve anything. The next stage is drones flying over us in turn, sent by jihadis or Israel or who knows what, because it’s technology and gets faster, cheaper, more miniaturized and disposable. While that would serve us right in a sense, it seems odd to insist we’d appreciably change this by abandoning our drone warfare.
Maybe we are the last generation who can view a clear sky and not hide.
However, also bear in mind that meteorites can come out of a blue sky and smash you, but nobody hides from those because they’re too rare. It’s all down to the weaponry and the area threatened by it.
Back in the day (and to this day, I bet) you had inner-city areas menaced by police helicopters. Back then, maybe the helicopters weren’t armed and you didn’t expect to be directly shot by the patrolling chopper while on your city street, but they were meant as constant reminders of deadly police force and were taken as such. I don’t see that huge a difference between that and drones.
Flying death machines from people who will come and kill you whether by intent or by mistake, and who’ll pay no consequences for this, is not new. It’s escalated, but this is not a new dynamic, and the refusal to take any responsibility isn’t new either, it’s just more brazen.
That reaction can be a useful filter. It has prevented me from wasting time. You can use it that way, too.
What makes you say he is thinking about the people in those countries? When someone uses such language as “If countries do not want drone strikes” and “My sympathy for these countries is low,” it’s a fair bet that, for whatever reason, they aren’t thinking about the welfare of innocent human beings; they are more worried about “countries.”
Could not be clearer.
One issue I have with drones is that unmanned warfare puts a great distance between us and the consequences. We can as a country sit back and give little thought to what’s going on because there are no massive casualties to remind us. Makes me glad there were no drones in Vietnam or who knows how long that war would have continued.
My one main we is this: are we saying no to all warfare, or just drones? If the former that makes sense, but if the latter, ever with reservations I don’t see how we can justify putting more people in harm’s way.
@pathman: Tom “tbogg” Boggioni is a stone cold misogynist and a company democrat to the bitter end. His “zany” humor got tiresome about ten minutes after Bush left office. He seems to spend most of his days on Twitter inflicting his women hatred on various members of the Palin clan and other female conservative personalities. I can’t stand these people either but don’t need to resort to the gendered abuse that’s his calling card. For some reason, he still gets pumped up around these parts – it takes a real blind eye.
Davis X. Machina
It’s better to put people in harm’s way, if that’s the price of salving my conscience.
@Rex Tremendae: Right.
@Betty Cracker: Right again.
@Thomas F: any examples of tboggs misogyny, or is any criticism of Palin automatically misogynistic?
For example, Chris Hitchens opposed them from the left.
(I did, too, for what that’s worth.)
I agree with you on the drones, John.
(Pick which of the two Johns I’m referring to).
Not all of us shit our pants, or smear this blog with flinging poo when drones are discussed as highly problematic. And yet, while I hope I’m wrong, I just don’t see a way out of our ever-advancing surveillance state.
I grew up reading novelist William Gibson and I think he’s been remarkably adept at seeing where we’ve been headed: global, oligarchical, crony capitalism attached to a paranoid security state, coupled with a highly degraded global environment.
ETA: I know, happy Monday to you all, huh.
There are at least three separate effects: (1) effect of drone strikes on (say) wedding parties; (2) effect of (1) on bystanders; and (3) effect of (2) on people seen as responsible for (1).
What exactly do you think the “argument” is that “does not hold much water”?
How about if I’m just opposed to war, particularly one that won’t really work? Manned, unmanned, no matter what, people are going to die. I’m ok with drones, sort of, but that’s just because I know the other alternatives add in more people to the equation. I personally would love for us to opt not to be fighting anything, but even then, do I want ISIS/ISIL to be earning 3 mil a day from captured oil fields and territories? I don’t know. The whole fucking thing is too complicated for a yes/no decision.
No, it most certainly is not.
Villago Delenda Est
Drones are just another way of delivering ordnance. The problem is delivering ordnance, and it’s part of a problem that Rachel Maddow discusses in Drift…that America’s political leaders, of both parties, don’t want to take responsibility for the military actions they initiate. The Founders had specific ideas about this, what with one branch controlling the military and another branch having funding authority and the power to declare war.
Congress doesn’t want to be involved in this anymore, it seems, but of course wants to snipe at the executive for any fuckups that might happen, and fuckups will of course happen. The Rethugs have come out and basically admitted to this.
@Cervantes: well, since greenwald cannot bear to be contradicted and blocks folks who do, it makes sense you would filter. Shoe fits, so to speak.
@schrodinger’s cat: good points
True enough — but how is all this related to the wisdom of our bombing people, including innocent people, including innocent Pakistanis (if any)?
If you’re arguing that the Pakistani establishment cozies up to Islamic fundamentalists partly in order to disadvantage the Indian establishment — well, no one disagrees; or, at least, I don’t — but so what?
@Cervantes: Thought experiment, if there were no drone strikes would that end all the strife in Afghanistan or the Middle-East? There would be not terrorist attacks at all? It is not a simple cause and effect relationship.
What drone strikes did India unleash to deserve the killing spree in November of 2008?
When I used the noun “filter” above, I meant “means of figuring out whom not to take seriously on this subject.”
You, for example.
But never mind me; do carry on.
@Cervantes: The only point I am trying to make is that American drone strikes create Islamic terrorists is a simplistic argument at best.
There’s a cycle of violence. The U.S. unilaterally stopping is not going to end it. Pakistan’s goal in funding terrorists is to be a thorn in the side of India.
Al-Qaeda/Taliban hijacked an Indian Airlines flight in 1998 or 1999 and demanded India release some prisoners, one of whom I believe helped plan 9/11/01 in the U.S.
Whether it is to prick India, Israel or Russia or other countries, there are entities fueling the cycle of violence, who will not back down, if the U.S. backs down.
They will give safe harbor and resources to people planning terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other countries.
The U.S. will more than happily get out of the bombing business, if these terrorist groups cease to be.
The equation on the other side is not so simple, since these groups will continue to do what they do, as long as they have support from other parties, no matter what the U.S. does.
I don’t have control over a lot of things other people do. Nobody does.
But if countries want the drone strikes to stop against their people, they can fully commit to combating the terrorism they helped foster.
If those are your examples of “arguments” that do not “hold much water,” well, no one is making either of those “arguments” here — and I have a sinking feeling that I’m happier about this fact than you are.
You’re mad about what the ISI does — as I said, I get it — but relevance here is not obvious.
@Cervantes: I am not mad at all. In fact I think ISI does more damage to Pakistan than it does to India. All I am saying is that the issues at hand are complicated, American interference as the global police complicates it farther. Tomorrow if the US is no longer the global police, these regional conflicts will still go on.
ETA: I think we are in agreement, I don’t think these drone strikes achieve much of anything.
Here’s a simplistic “argument”: Islamic terrorists are created if and only if the USG unleashes drone strikes.
No one is making this argument.
@schrodinger’s cat: OK, you’re not mad about it; but I am.
As I’ve posted in my response to Betty, the U.S. stopping their bombing will not stop the terrorists from acting or impact them in any appreciable way.
The forces fueling these terrorists are not in direct response to U.S. actions. They are their own entities, with their own goals and for better or worse one of those goals maybe to blow stuff up in America, if they get the chance.
Their more immediate goal that does not impact us directly is to blow stuff up, where their neighbors are to take over the neighborhood, so to speak.
These are militias / terrorists / insurgents / rebels, who wan to take over Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and impose a form of government few people in those countries actually want, but do not have the means to actively oppose.
The situation is not as simple as “U.S. stop bombing, terrorists stop terrorizing”.
For the people who say the drone strikes make things worse, please give me an alternative.
Mike in NC
John Boehner is advocating that on the front page of USA Today. I hope he volunteers to lead the way.
My position is that they do at least as much harm as the good that is claimed on their behalf.
It’s a subjective thing, I agree.
@Cervantes: You may not be making this argument but this blog post is, it is titled:
Yes, there is. Consider it the ‘marginal cost of killing people’. Putting a pilot in the air incurs both a real and potential cost. They can only loiter for so long. They risk getting shot down, and piloted planes are much more expensive than drones. There’s a certain cost of finding and then killing your target that is much higher for manned aircraft than for unmanned. This can be played two ways:
1) Only attack the same targets you would have with manned craft and then return the savings to the taxpayers
2) Use your savings to run even more missions and kill even more people – people that previously you would have considered ‘too expensive’ to go after.
Note that we’ve only ever flown one manned mission into Pakistan and that one was highly controversial even though it successfully killed Bin Laden. You can measure the cost of a manned mission right there – what was Bin Laden worth? Clearly much more than the drone strikes taking place there.
Let’s ask the question a different way – if these are the same things, then we should be able to envision sending a manned sortie in for every drone strike. Can you envision us having sent hundreds of sorties into Pakistan? Into Yemen? Into Somalia? I can’t – there’s no way we would have done that. In these cases at least, these are very different things. Without drones, not one of those strikes would have taken place – or they would have required considerably more political action before happening – Congress, or the UN or someone else being involved.
That’s my only real criticism of the drone program – that the marginal cost of killing the next guy isn’t well defined, and in fact seems to shift frequently. At some point we’re going to take a situation like the guy who ambushed a couple of troopers in PA and decide that it’s more cost-effective to just drone him out in the woods, rather than engage in a lengthy and dangerous manhunt.
Paul in KY
@Thomas F: I’m fine with TBogg slagging various Palins, female/male. I also like ‘Company Democrats’.
@Cervantes: oh good! Thank you for clarifying that. I don’t take you seriously either, so we are clear on that. Cheers!
I gotta go with Gene on some of this. We’re so vain, we probably think jihad is about us.
It’s starting to look to me like Islam is having a Thirty Years War. The nutbags insist that everything has to be governed by religious principles, the moderate people – most Muslims, from what I’ve seen – are willing to coexist. Unfortunately the nutbags have a lot of guns and knives and are willing to use them. I think the nutbags, and there’s a substantial number of them, just don’t deal with modernity very well and that causes a lot of problems. I don’t think we’re creating jihadis with drone strikes (or short skirts or exporting bad action films), we’re just giving them a plausible sounding excuse to hate us, and if it wasn’t us, it’d be something else. Sometimes people are just assholes, and that’s who they are.
And I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m pretty sure after what went down in Oklahoma last week that you can also create jihadis by firing a guy who spouts off in the workplace about how women who speak up or get an education should be stoned.
John Cole +0
I am absolutely convinced that indiscriminate bombing, made all the more easier by our reliance on drones, creates jihadis. So are do others:
I just watched American Experience: 1964 and was struck by the arguments used for Vietnam being the same as used ever since (including drones) and swallowed almost wholesale over and over….well, that is unless the administration doing it is not one you support politically, in which case it’s evil.
There’s no difference between shock and awe, and degrade and destroy….there’s no end game, no strategy, no nothing. And drones are part of that.
And really, both Johns are correct, so go on swallowing the BS about the Current Worst People in the World and how “something” will be done that doesn’t do anything except create more terrorists and more hatred of the aggressors.
I think there are plenty of people on the American Left, who do make that argument.
I’m probably being a bit harsh there, but I get tired of people somehow thinking the U.S. is the sole evil actor in this situation and we are just gleefully bombing wedding parties for shits and giggles.
In all honesty, I do not think the U.S. is the bad guy in this situation.
We got dragged into a bad situation after 9/11/01, which Bush & Co. managed to make worse (which is another topic entirely) and our now stuck.
Withdrawing does not end the forces that are pushing the terrorists on. Drone strikes are at best a band aid solution to a bigger problem, which is out of our control.
There may have been an actual solution 10-12 years ago, but that opportunity was squandered.
@Someguy: Lately I’ve been wondering if the movement towards self-determination that was in vogue in the 20th century didn’t have a huge downside to it- people separating themselves on the national level on the basis of religion seems like something that would bring more extremists into the world, not less.
@schrodinger’s cat: Can’t help you with that, sorry.
John Cole +0
And for the idiots who think that it is just another way of delivering ordinance, it isn’t. It’s a much easier way to deliver ordinance with relatively no immediate skin in the game for us, and with no procedural guidelines. When you conduct airstrikes with planes, there are several key differences:
1.) They don’t go unnoticed by the American public or media.
2.) They require us following well established military guidelines.
3.) They require actual boots on the ground much of the time, so we have a real idea of who and what we are bombing.
4.) When missions involving military personnel go bad, there is accountability and an investigation.
The use of drones is so easy for us that we can basically use them indiscriminately, and this has the deleterious effect of causing us to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s so easy that we don’t even go through the basics of intel work to identify who or what we are bombing and killing.
That is a problem.
And Burns can just go fuck himself. All he does is drive by troll these days. Can’t even be bothered to cite one fact backing up his assertions, ever.
@gene108: America dragged itself into that “situation”.
Plenty, so it should be easy to list them or even quote them.
Again, who says any of this? And why take them seriously if they do?
Your clock may have started on 9/11/01 but not everyone’s did. I’m not saying you’re ignoring history — but one should be careful not to.
A lot of the hotspots in the world were created after WW I and the subsequent the defeat of the Ottoman Empire (both Syria and Iraq, for example), that equilibrium has been slowly unraveling and now it has gained momentum. Drone strikes are a second order effect at best in grand the scheme of things.
@schrodinger’s cat: I think that’s an interesting point, thanks.
@SatanicPanic: How do you think a tiny island nation ruled much of the world? Divide and conquer, that’s how.
The Hindu-Muslim divide in India is one good example, the British rulers used the existing differences by playing one community against the other since 1857 after the Crown took over from the British East India Company.
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
Quite a bit, actually. The lesson learned in the Pacific theater of WWII was that planes could be replaced relatively quickly, but training pilots to effectively man those planes took quite a while. The IJN lost almost all of their skilled pilots between the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Solomon Islands campaign. It took them a year after that to train even serviceable pilots to attempt to slow the next big American offensive. Those serviceable pilots were massacred at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, aka the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. After that, the IJN became a force incapable of stopping the US Pacific Fleet.
Move the clock forward 70 years, and it takes even more training to give a pilot skills to fly a much more technologically advanced machine.
@schrodinger’s cat: That’s actually the example I was thinking of. Is anyone better off for having Pakistan and Bengladesh as separate states? I’m not sure
Many Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, who fought to throw out the British did not support the separate and artificial creation of Pakistan.
Gandhi is the most prominent example — and while it’s true that he was murdered because of his refusal to make Muslims the enemy, it’s also true, as he demonstrated, that Indian self-determination did not have to involve anti-Muslim bigotry.
Gin & Tonic
@John Cole +0: Making warfare easier and less painful to conduct from a distance is the story of human existence for two millennia.
@Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): Interesting, OK, that’s good to know.
@Cervantes: I was thinking more about Pakistan’s self-determination.
@SatanicPanic: Actually I think India has benefited the most from the partition, imagine if the both Pakistan and Bangladesh had become a part of India reluctantly. It would be like the Kashmir issue but 100 fold worse in magnitude.
@SatanicPanic: I was using the word “Indian” to include all people of the sub-continent, just as the word was commonly used before the emergence of Pakistan. (You may want to re-read the comment in that light, or not.)
Yes – to kill civilians.
@Mike J: Um, I was engaging in a bit of reductio ad absurdium snark to make the point you just made explicitly, not being serious.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@John Cole +0:
While everything you say that follows this statement is more of less accurate, none of it negates the fact that drones simply are another means of delivering ordinance. They are not good or bad in and of themselves. They are either well suited to a particular task or they are not. They are either used in support of a well-thought out policy or they are not. FWIW I think that our current use of drones is causing more harm than good and should stop.
@cleek: To be more precise, in the modern era they are most commonly used to kill civilians – which was also their original use about a hundred years ago.
I’m trying to picture drone strikes being used to deliver municipal by-laws. It could work, at least in some cases — but on the other hand I think the word you both want is “ordnance.”
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Bobby Thomson: I don’t believe that cluster munitions existed a hundred years ago, but I may be wrong.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Cervantes: Damn it. You are right. I would blame it on autocorrect, but that would be a lie. I done simply screwed up.
@John at Top
American’s views on drones will change once a few of our guys get killed by them.
@SatanicPanic: We’ve put such a premium on them that they’re not to be risked. Good for the ego, bad for the career and mission. That’s why they say the last fighter pilot has been born.
For my part, I think you’re all getting it wrong. Me, I don’t support the use of guns in warfare, because bullets kill at a distance, and they can go astray. Rocks, same problem. If you have a really high-value target, you should sneak up on him and use only your body to take him down. Otherwise it creates a culture of indiscriminate destruction.
(As usual, this has nothing to do with “drones,” and has everything to do with civilian casualties, and if drones make for more civilian casualties, that’d be kind of surprising, because bombs and missiles kill much more indiscriminately than drones do, and I’ve never heard anyone other than a die-hard pacifist rail against the morality of those weapons per se. Know who you’re about to kill and why before you kill him or her, and if you don’t know, don’t do it. Everything else is unnecessarily complicated.)
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): As far as I know they were first used during WWII.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Cervantes: That is my understanding as well.
@John Cole +0:
The problem is not the drones specifically, it is the methodology of their deployment. How is the procedure we use to deploy drones any different than the cops in Ferguson use to shoot random black people? They are tall, they look like something, shoot them?
And the argument that using drones the way we do does not cause resentment? If we are indiscriminately killing people with drones, what possible concept could we employ that would end up with them liking us? That they will like us when we stop?
The middle east is a whole lot of fucked up, of that there is no question. The questions are, should we do anything constructive about it, can we do anything constructive, and if yes what are those constructive things?
Randomly blowing up people and shit is not a constructive answer no matter how the destruction is delivered. That it is cheaper and less threatening to US lives to randomly blow up people and shit is not a constructive answer.
Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name)
@Ruckus: Good points.
@Ruckus: Are we indiscriminately killing people with drones, or not? I think there’s a huge difference between “indiscriminately killing” and “tragically fucking up by killing.” Seems to me that the whole argument is driven by equating “drones” and “indiscriminate,” but “indiscriminate” is pretty clearly the moral culprit there. If drones were not used indiscriminately, drones would be no worse than any other method of delivering an explosive projectile. If drones were used indiscriminately, they would be as bad as any other method of indiscriminate slaughter. I don’t know why so many people want to argue this argument in this way.
@John Cole +0:
Maybe if you focused on the methodology of their deployment instead of continually shrieking about the technology itself, more people would take you seriously on this issue.
@FlipYrWhig: Aside from that, I’d like to know how often one can use the excuse that this or that slaughter of civilians was “tragic” or “fated” or “accidental” or “unintended.”
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, bombing the living daylights out of one wedding party may be regarded as a misfortune; but to bomb the living daylights out of two of them, well, it looks like carelessness. And when it keeps happening, over and over, it begins to look like indifference.
Culture of Truth
It’s true that drones make is easier to carry out bombing from the air, and more likely to do it, but that itself tell us little, For some people, those are positive attributes and good outcomes. So the disucssion should be around the policy, not the device. And we need to separate out certain arguments, such as ‘bombings only create more terrorists’, from ones not related, such as the morality, or legality, or whether they are coming to a local police force near you.
First fifteen words of what he wrote above:
In this light, feel free to revise and extend your remarks.
@Cervantes: No, I don’t think I will. This post is fairly well reasoned but he has a long, long, long history of hysterics on the subject, and that’s what I was referring to.
@Cervantes: And I think that’s fine (and the Wilde is apropos). But “indiscriminate” does so much of the heavy lifting in these discussions. Drones exist with the promise that they’re the _opposite_ of indiscriminate. That may be a fiction — but if so the sticking point is still discriminate/indiscriminate, not manned/unmanned or all this other stuff.
There seems to be lots of examples and even inside evidence(the lady in John Oliver’s video that worked for the CIA) that we in fact are indiscriminately blowing up people and are targeting people based on flimsy or even no real cause. We seem to be using drones in place of manned bombing because it is cheaper and of course far less dangerous to US personnel. We don’t seem to have changed the methodology for their use, just the delivery system. We are at war, we just don’t have a uniformed enemy/country to kill. So you either end up killing innocent people, find and kill the correct people or don’t kill anyone. We have chosen the first option. This may work in a time of war against a country(we employed it against Germany and Japan in WWII), but I’d bet that it is really ineffective against terrorists, unless of course you just kill everyone in the area, thereby killing the terrorists. Of course you then have those innocent people who are also dead. BTW that’s actually option #1, which is where we are.
I’m guessing that Al Qaida’s longstanding citation to the Tragedy of Al Andalus as a principle motivation is the fault of Charles Martel. If only his knights hadn’t used stirrups indiscriminately at the Battle of Tours, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in today. I’m sure that also in turn led to an uptick in recruiting, and we’ve been feeling the consequences for the last 1200 years… Ye Olde Backeblaste.
@Cervantes: If drones are being used cavalierly, that’s as big a problem as using any other weapon cavalierly. Several people above have contended that drones are more likely to be used cavalierly than other weapons, in part because of cost and the absence of a pilot. OK, that sounds logical, but do we know that they’re already being used cavalierly? I think it stands to reason that drones lead to _fewer_ civilian casualties than other weapons. But if they’re being used with less restraint, then that would lead to more potential for death and devastation. So there’s a calculus to this, and it sounds believable, but I don’t think we can just say “drones are indiscriminate death machines,” because the whole indiscriminate part is what needs to be proved, and thus “I hate drones because they’re indiscriminate death machines” is a textbook begging of the question.
Does not seem complicated to me: the fact that they are unmanned allows us to use them with less deliberation and discrimination. Different words, one sticking point.
More interesting to me is the notion that one has to be a [shudder] pacifist to object to the casual-tragic butchering of civilians. Back in my day, pacifism was a lot more than that.
It’s cheap, low risk, and out of site until it starts showing up at rallys and other events, then not so much.
That simple, eh? Perhaps we should just outlaw religious extremism here in the U.S., too. No more abortion clinic bombings because homegrown terrorism has been outlawed! Problem solved!
Really? Let a foreign country drop a bomb on your family and see how much of a terrorist you don’t become.
@Gin & Tonic:
Yeah, but making war easier and more expensive so that weapons manufacturers can make more money is the story of human existence for the last 50 years.
@John Cole +0:
Exactly. My own two cents: if these weapons are so accurate so as to earn the term “surgical strike” then why don’t we just use them to demolish our own buildings and bridges? So what if a few civilians get to experience collateral damage? Think of the savings in time and money.
@Ruckus: Point taken, but that’s still a story about targeting, not about drones. Is targeting for drones more cavalier than targeting for other weaponry (for instance, airstrikes)? Like I said, “with drones it’s too tempting to shoot first and ask questions later” sounds logical, but I think there’s a ton of confirmation bias to contend with. I’m just not sure the same argument couldn’t be made for any weapon, and if it can, then the specific nightmarishness of drones goes out the window anyway. Are drones more likely to “create jihadis” than any other misdirected or intimidating weapon? I don’t see why that would be the case. Civilian casualties are civilian casualties, and that’s what turns neutral-to-sympathetic people against the military doing the bombarding, right?
I’d be careful about using words like “calculus” in this context, but if you’re looking for data, maybe start with this bit from above.
The real question should be:
Are drones or any military action effective against terrorists?
If the answer is actual pinpointed use of drones is effective that’s a positive. I don’t see that answer for we are not using them to pinpoint accuracy.
We have seen info that there are more people who hate us now than 15 yrs ago so I’d say that military type action is not working. We’ve tried boots on the ground and made things worse, we’ve tried using drones somewhat indiscriminately and that’s not working either. Maybe just killing is not the answer or maybe we have been killing the wrong people, if killing is the answer. So the next question is who is the proper person to kill? Anyone got a concrete answer for that? And anyone in the way of a drone strike is not the correct answer, because it is not working unless collateral damage is OK. My thought is that in the middle east collateral damage is very bad long term.
@Cervantes: No, you’ve misread the statement. Civilian casualties are always abhorrent. But virtually no one voices their objection to a weapon per se, they way they do casually with “drones,” by saying that that weapon can kill at a distance. That’s true of almost all weapons. Have you ever heard anyone say the military shouldn’t use guns because bullets can be misfired?
Are you comparing one bombing sortie against one drone strike? Damage is a product of lethality and frequency of use (among other things).
It’s sort of like Apple’s argument that the best camera is the one you happen to have with you.
In what possible way is being a critic of our drone policy related to being a critic of Greenwald? It’s possible to be both, you know.
@FlipYrWhig: The reason people tend to focus on drones is because of the policy reality that has evolved around them, which Oliver outlines very well above: It’s easier to use drones indiscriminately — or to tragically fuck up with drones, if that’s your preferred framing.
A drone campaign is cheap. It involves fewer people to implement. Congress and the population can more easily ignore it because no American skin is in the game. Has anyone ever said drones are inherently evil because they are drones? I don’t think so. They’re saying the the policy that has evolved around drone warfare enables indiscrim…uh, more fuck-ups than non-drone, i.e., aircraft / assassination team campaigns.
It may _allow_ us to use them that way, but that doesn’t guarantee that we _do_ use them that way. Nuclear weapons are unmanned but aren’t used with less deliberation for being so. It’s the weapon that requires the _most_ deliberation.
IMHO it would make a lot more sense to say that the military, like the cops, should use deadly force rarely and as a last resort, not indiscriminately and as a first resort, which has the merit of being applicable to all weapons. I just don’t get why drones need to be the object of special concern like this. It seems to me that “drones” has become a shortcut for “indiscriminate mechanized slaughter.”
OK, now that I write it that way, I kind of want to mock myself: #NotAllDrones. But philosophically speaking, something’s weird about the argument, I still think.
That’s your synopsis of the argument against drone warfare? You think people are objecting to killing at a distance per se?
(And no, I don’t see that I mis-read your statement about pacifists. Might have mis-read, but don’t see that I did.)
And as for this:
There’s that little matter of nuclear weapons that you may be forgetting.
And maybe chemical weapons.
And possibly biological weapons.
The entire point is about targeting. I’d think that wondering about if we are using pinpoint accuracy against known terrorists has been pretty well settled. We may be trying to but the reality is that we are not. We fire missiles from drones, not single sniper bullets. Missiles make a decent sized hole in the ground and they have collateral damage. Full Stop. We fire missiles from maned planes and people complain that there is collateral damage. There really is no difference here. That is why many are not talking about the methodology of drone use but the drones themselves. The usage and the weapon can not be separated if the explosive used does the same damage once fired. That is why I used the word pinpoint. We don’t do pinpoint, unless your definition of pin is much larger than mine. If you are trying to kill one person, you can not fire a missile(as the ones we currently do) at them in a confined and populated area without hitting/damaging other people/stuff.
@Betty Cracker: Can’t play the clip at work, but it seems to me that most of the drone fuckups of note have been not “indiscriminate” but rather wrongly targeted — IOW, they hit their target, but it was the wrong target, as opposed to hitting something other than the target. “Indiscriminate” suggests instead the walls of bombs and fire like in the closing of Apocalypse Now.
@FlipYrWhig: Would you then say that the targeting is indiscriminate?
Many people inadvertently do when they try to pinpoint what’s wrong about drones. One thing that’s wrong about drones is the same thing that’s wrong about all projectiles: sometimes they come down where you don’t expect. The other thing that’s wrong about drones is that they fire missiles accurately at a person who hasn’t done anything wrong. Which isn’t uniquely true about drones either.
Drones seem to me to me on a continuum with rifles and bombers. They take something explosive and deliver it a long distance away. Chemical and biological weapons do something else that shocks the conscience. Nuclear weapons, good point; I think it’s the notion of cataclysm that makes those morally objectionable: the destruction is just too massive.
@Ruckus: I agree, the entire point is about targeting. So I don’t know why people say “drones” when they mean “targeting,” especially because you probably also want your military to target accurately all of its other weapons too.
I think I’m being a pedantic pain in the ass now. I’ve made my point about as well as I think I can make it.
I’m not going to bother with splitting words here. We are killing people and damaging property because we have no better way to do something. Those people are not all the bad guys, they are collateral damage. I refuse to parse words about us as a country killing the wrong people just because we can sit here ten thousand miles away and do so safely and easily. That’s how we use drones, thousands of miles away, safely and easily. Parsing words describing that is not the answer.
@Cervantes: OK, last thing, I think. Targeting would be indiscriminate if too many people were being targeted for too little cause. That could also be true. My sense is that targeting is “discriminate,” if that’s a word, not indiscriminate, but sometimes the people they kill — with deadly accuracy — aren’t the designated targets. “That’s terrorist #1 over there, fire!” “Oh, shit, it was just a guy who looked like him” isn’t indiscriminate. Indiscriminate would be “I heard terrorist #1 sometimes hangs out over there, let’s just blow up everything that moves in the general vicinity.”
@FlipYrWhig: I urge you to check out the clip, then. In one instance, a scrap metal collector got blown up by a drone because he was around the same height as bin Laden. The clip of American spokespeople trying to explain accidentally killing innocent bystanders is just cringe-inducing. It seems pretty damn “indiscriminate,” even if it wasn’t their aim wasn’t to randomly blow up people.
@Ruckus: I never said I was providing “the answer.” I’m just trying to clarify the question.
What you’ll never get them to admit to, John, is that drones are a terror weapon. As with the weapons used by “official” terrorists the sheer body count is low on a per capita basis, the purpose is to demonstrate to the target population that the U.S. can kill anybody, anywhere, anytime, from completely out of the blue. The terrorization is achieved, and at the same time the home population can be propagandized into thinking it’s a righteous form of warfare.
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
It’s both easier use and easier to fuck up- and to fuck up with much more disastrous results- with cruise missiles. It’s also a lot more expensive- and that’s reason numero uno that we’ve been using drones to deliver Hellfire missiles. That drones are more discriminate is a closer numero dos than you might want to think.
@Betty Cracker: I think I’ve gotten bogged down in defining “indiscriminate.” My larger point is only this: the issue is the deaths of innocents. Anything that causes the deaths of innocents or makes the deaths of innocents more likely is abhorrent. I don’t find it helpful to use the word “drones” to signify this series of events.
Hence we see a problem.
All military weapons are used indiscriminately and/or with collateral damage except for snipers or a knife and both of those can be used indiscriminately. All missiles, bombs and guns are used that way, they can’t be used any other way. You can target an area but the size of the weapon and the aim will determine the amount of collateral damage, unless destruction of the area is the objective. Even a well aimed single rifle/pistol shot can have collateral damage. That is the nature of trying to kill things with projectile weapons.
So there are two issues here. Targeting and collateral damage. Collateral damage is a fact, it happens every time unless you are very lucky, so 99%. Targeting is what is left. And targeting is both aiming and what you aim. Indiscriminate targeting is aiming at the wrong(or random) person or throwing the wrong projectile at them. Drones as we use them, missiles, will have collateral damage. Full Stop.
I think a crude analogy can be used to explain the drone conundrum. It seems to be understood that drones strikes are a more precise tool than air strikes from manned aircraft or Tomahawk missiles from a distant aircraft carrier or whatever. And obviously they can be carried out without putting any American troops in harm’s way. That all sounds “good,” right?
But I think it leads to the same mindset that a big Best Buy sale can lead to among undisciplined consumers (myself occasionally included). Sure, you can buy a plasma TV you don’t need for a lot less than you were able to last week, but absent the sale, would you have even considered buying it? Absent the “advantages” a drone provides over the alternatives, would we even be considering making the same strikes? In most cases, I’d guess probably not – although I think most presidents are susceptible to lobbing cruise missiles into some place or other to show toughness. But not on the scale the drone program has operated at in recent years.
If drones, and our use of them, were as precise as they are supposed to be, it might be possible to use them in a way that had positive effects. Taking terrorists off the field with almost zero collateral damage might not provoke backlash. But of course it’s not that simple. Not everyone agrees on who a “terrorist” is in the first place, and they don’t walk around wearing a bullseye and keeping safely away from innocent civilians. So yeah. More harm than good. Less harm than Presidents McCain or Romney’s invasion of Iran would have created, but that’s a pretty low bar.
Agreed. I grew tired of Glenn’s hyperbole and sensationalism a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean I’m wearing a “Drones Are #1” foam finger on my hand.
@Heliopause: I actually think this is a more promising basis for a moral objection to drones qua drones than anything else that’s been adduced so far.
I think that’s a good point too: perhaps it creates the impression of thoughtful middle-ground-ism and thus increases the use of explosives rather than reducing them.
Now I’m 15 minutes past my “last thing.” Better switch gears and do work-work. Actually a pretty good discussion on drones-and-related-topics, for all that.
Think London V2 bombing in WWII. How well did that work out for Germany? Both in how terrorized and how resolved the British became.
Look at us. One terrorist attack, 3000 deaths and we have attacked a country not even involved, leaving immense destruction and death not to mention what the response has done to us as a country.
GHayduke (formerly lojasmo)
Dudebro, OR a Greenwald lover, OR a hysteric?
Well, talking about things can help, if the talking is honest.
Re the “accidental” and “tragic” blowing up of blameless people, I agree with you: it is not a path forward to peace. Quite the opposite.
I don’t remember everyone freaking out when we started firing cruise missiles at these guys based on satellite images. Are drone-launched missiles all that much different? Or is it just a matter of using the technology more?
Isn’t another difference the ability of the CIA to order drone strikes in addition to the military? I don’t think they can order missile or aircraft strikes, but I could be wrong.
That “imminent” clip sounded like Sam Seder. No credit?
Fuckit, just nuke the planet from orbit and start over.
Paul in KY
@Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): They did in artillery shells. Not from the air, though.
Paul in KY
@C.V. Danes: Good points all.
Paul in KY
@Cervantes: FlipYrWhig is sounding like the vampire kid on Southpark, per se.
Paul in KY
@Ruckus: I think the problem is that we see the terrorist go into a cave or a hut or a tent & we don’t know/care who else is in there & we blow it up & it turns out there are a lot of innocent people in there.
If a guy armed to the teeth shows up at your hovel, are you going to tell him to get lost?