Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The now very stale US military strategy in which Predator drones are used to incinerate handfuls of civilians and alleged terrorists in the badlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not viewed well by this writer.

Fairly obvious to anyone with a shred of common sense, it's a strategy of pinprick raids as likely to kill innocent people as not, random assassinations by use of a very long distance radio-controlled flying gun. It's a strategy that appear to serve one primary purpose: To provide a good market and demand for the maker of Predators and Reapers.

To turn its asinine logic around, imagine if the LAPD had a hit squad (it actually used to) which randomly offed alleged gang members and ordinary people in the wrong place at the wrong time in Los Angeles. Aside from the civilian outcry, which can occasionally be ignored by the ruling class, it wouldn't fix the problem of murderous gang violence in the city.

Why is it thought then that plinking the occasional alleged terrorist in Pakistan is a proper or effective strategy?

Actually, one shouldn't even be asking these types of questions, because it shoves potential disrespect and superciliousness at the glorious future and the wonderful technology of US remote-control war.

Instead, at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a place which sees itself as "Promoting the Ethical Use of Technology to Enhance Human Capabilities" you get something as equally asinine as Predator strikes as a strategy, like this:

"A fundamental problem as [expert Pete Singer] sees it is the ease with which killing can now take place," states the article.

Profound. But wait, it gets much better.

"[Singer] cites the example of the Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs). This propeller-powered drone is 27 feet in length, can spend up to 24 hours in the air and flies at a height of 26,000 feet. Predators are flown by 'reach-back' or 'remote-split' operators—military personnel who are 7,500 miles away and who fly the planes via satellite from a set of converted single- wide trailers located mostly at Nellis and Creech Air Force bases in Nevada.

"This type of operation has created a rather novel situation where 'pilots' experience the psychological disconnect of being 'at war' while dealing with their daily domestic routines. Singer notes the words of one Predator pilot, 'You see Americans killed in front of your eyes and then have to go to a PTA meeting.' Says another, 'You are going to war for 12 hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy combatants, and then you get in the car, drive home, and within 20 minutes you are sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework.'”

"Remote-split." "Reach-back." The Predator drone is 27 feet, count 'em, in length.

You'll know the knaves by their enthusiasm for descriptions of hardware and citation of jargon. Or the implication that Predator drivers are in a inimitable spot because it's odd to be killing complete strangers from the refuge of exurban Nevada. It's causing friction at the dinner table and remote pilot fatigue.

You see Americans killed in front of your eyes and have to go to PTA but the psychological pressure's a lot less draining if it was just a handful of people -- usually much less well-armed and poorer -- in a hut that day.

"With no draft, no need for congressional approval (the last formal declaration of war was in 1941), no tax or war bonds, and now the knowledge that the Americans at risk are mainly just American machines, the already falling bars to war may well hit the ground," Pete Singer is said to have written. "A leader won’t need to do the kind of consensus building that is normally required before a war, and won’t even need to unite the country behind the effort. In turn, the public truly will become the equivalent of sports fans watching war, rather than citizens sharing in its importance."

Let's repeat, for style points: "A leader won't need to do the kind of consensus building that is normally required before a war, and won't even need to unite the country behind the effort."

Jeezus, that's really sharp. One expects nothing less from someone who might just be the smartest guy in the whole damn country. "He has been quoted in every major U.S. newspaper and news magazine and delivered talks at venues ranging from the U.S. Congress and Pentagon to more than 40 universities around the world," it is said. Every major newspaper and news magazine!


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