There is an interesting opinion piece by Conor Friedersdorf, over at The Atlantic.
Staff writer, is that a paid position, these days, you ask ? …who knows, really, but that's not why we're here (full disclosure : I'm not paid by The Atlantic, either. Jealous much ?).
It's about killah drones, and why the US of A should keep using them, if only the home of the brave would show more manners and a modicum of common sense about the whole thing, pretty please, instead of fragging anything that moves, in a vain attempt to look tough and ease the frustration of not being able to get their for serious, gold-plated warbirds to work.
According to 'one-N' Conor, and while indeed, drones are here to stay and thrive, the question isn't whether to use them, but how, when and why they should(n't) be put in play.
Common sense, really, yet worth the non-ink bled for it on your screen anyway, as anything that helps straighten the discussion about drones from its usual contorsions of false dichotomy is good. When it comes to debate anything war on terror, the dominant (and very skewed) framing goes "either you're for whatever it is we do to win the WoT, or you're on the terroriss' side !". Merely suggesting the injection of some reasoned argumentation in there is daring, so props for that, Schrödinger hobbyist/journalist you.
In fairness, the issue has been on the agenda for some time, and recently reached such a level of visibility that the Obama administration felt compelled to do something about it… word is they're contemplating a move of killerbot overseeing from CIA to the Pentagon, for which all I can say is it's better than the other way around, but not by much.
Neither Friedersdorf's plea for due process, nor the administration's putative concessions to more transparency really touch on what I reckon is a most crucial flaw with the sky killer robots doctrine, which lies in the negative externalities known as blowback.
Emphatically not painting itself the color of Palpatine's empire is something that should be a matter of import to a nation so adamant on being a beacon of civilization, freedom and justice, especially when reaching out with the strong arm of the largest military in the world to engage in flimsily justified wars, ostensibly waged in response to terror attacks past, and with the purported aim of discouraging repeat offenses of the same flavor.
Why then, elect to put at the forefront the kind of weapon and tactics most likely to bolster any moral superiority claims your opponent might have ?
Short of using bio/chemical weapons or nukes against cities, nothing begs for terrorist retaliation against US civilian targets anywhere, anytime, like the systematic and seemingly careless recourse to drone strikes.
It's almost as if the doctrine aimed at guaranteeing perpetual war — are Pentagon and C.I.A staffers so worried about their job security that they mean to cultivate ill-will towards the US ?
Every time somebody who isn't an obvious player (by witnesses' estimate) gets killed or maimed by drones, resentment amongst the general population against whoever sent or enabled the remote killings grows, much more so than when 'collateral damage' happens with boots on the ground, because a drone strike on civilians is — simply put — nothing like combat : it's remorseless mass-murder, a description applicable to the sort of warfare also commonly labeled "terrorism".
The remote component only makes it an especially cowardly type of terrorism, which doesn't help anything in the win hearts and minds department.
Such blunders make for powerful media ammunition against the drone sponsors, who come out as brutal, incompetent chickenhawks, and seem like they're doing their utmost to fit snuggly in their evil empire dark costume, giving the shine of righteous fury to the underdogs.
'Counterproductive' comes to mind…
Not even touching on the notion of 'paying the price in blood' (let's keep things simple), and just by looking at the yearly output of movies and TV shows that revel in portraying 'merkuns as freedom fighters in the face of oppressive imaginary invaders, the patriot/heroes often literally depicted as ragtag insurgents resisting killer alien-robots occupiers at overwhelming odds, it defies imagination how the obvious and tragic irony of the RealWorld™ drone warfare situation seems lost on the american body politic.
Like Conor and others, I am not opposing drones on principle, nor the validity of targeted assassination as a tactic : both have merit and hold the potential to actually mitigate loss of life on all sides during conflicts, if and when used properly, but it seems to me somebody fell in love with their new toys and got a little compulsive, here.
Understandably, the ability to cripple an enemy organization by taking out their leadership and principals, anytime and anywhere can be intoxicatingly tempting, but the ultimate goal of war, if not outright extermination, is supposed to be the establishment of the requisite circumstances for a return to peace, or at least the goal should not be the perpetual escalation of the impetus for violent conflict.
Point being, a 20th century-style invasion war against foreign nation-states is the last thing the USA have to worry about right now. Terror is indeed the main threat to the country, and it's a danger, as the saying goes, both domestic and foreign, that's well on its way to eat it from the inside sooner than the out.
Angst and disarray in the face of a changing world have led US politics to devolve into a culture of fear, easily exploited for personal gain by demagogues and pillage-capitalism profiteers who are only too happy to see neocon prophecies about clash of civilizations come true, as long as they make a buck on the firesale and grab some power in that new world disorder.
As a result, today's US foreign policy oscillates between clumsy attempts at realpolitik and saber-rattling evangelization, while domestic legislative and executive branches seem to have fully embraced the "kill the village to save the village" doxa on everything but funding defense and megacorporations, leading essential rights and terms of the social contract to be sacrificed one after another on the altars of 'homeland security' and 'saving the financial system'.
Foreign onlookers are therefore justifiably uneasy about these developments, as 'merka looks every year more like a very tense paranoid-schizophrenic driving a truck full of toxic chemicals at breackneck speed through their neighborhood, trying to outrun her own shadow…
…and it starts at home.