Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The drone wars

"Almost any military venture receives strong popular approval in the short run; the citizenry rallies to the flag and to the forces engaged in combat. The strategy and technology of the new war evoke admiration and applause." - John Kenneth Galbraith, The Culture of Contentment (1992)
Unmanned drones are the latest technological marvel, a "boys with toys" phenomenon, that promises to make war easy, safe and free of complications (for Americans). It's unlikely in the extreme that it will be the last. Here are two segments from the PBS Newshour of 10/10/2011 on the drone wars, the latest whiz-bang technology that is supposed to make war.

Amid Criticism, U.S. Increases Use of Drones as Weapons of War:



Does U.S. Drone Use Set a New Precedent for War?, an analysis featuring Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap of Duke University Law School and David Cortright of Notre Dame.




In theater-criticism terms, Dunlap probably did better in defending the drone wars than Cortright did criticizing them. On the substance, Cortright has the better case. Dunlap probably sounds more credible to the average listener at first because he makes confident pronouncements. Even so, his rote disavowals of enthusiasm for war sounded wooden enough to come off as kind of creepy to me. For instance, when Dunlap says ...

In addition, the technology, the weapons technology, allows for very precise strikes. Do innocent people get killed? Of course they do. But is the nature of war is such that that is inevitable. This is a way of limiting those unnecessary deaths.
... he sounds like he means, who gives a **** if a few extra subhuman civilians git killt?

Later, he declares, "I think that we should be troubled any time we have to kill another human being," as a preface to saying what a neato-keeno way drones are for killin' people.

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