Some Interesting comments about drone warfare that teachers may want to share with their classes:
. . . [T]he United States has gone into the business of robotic assassination big time; . . . we are now the Terminators of Planet Earth, . . . the president [Obama] is openly and proudly an assassin-in-chief with his own global “kill list”; that we have endlessly targeted the backlands of the planet with our (Grim) Reaper and Predator (thank you Hollywood!) drones armed with Hellfire missiles; and that Washington has regularly knocked off women and children while searching for militant leaders and their generic followers? And don’t you find it odd that all of this has been done in the name of wiping out the terrorists and their movements, despite the fact that wherever our drones strike, those movements seem to gain in strength and power? 14 Years After 9/11, the War on Terror Is Accomplishing Everything bin Laden Hoped It Would: Al Qaeda goaded us into doing what it had neither the resources nor the ability to do by Tom Engelhardt in The Nation, 9/8/15.
Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director of National Intelligence, gave this interpretation of the use of drones as a weapon of assassination:
“[W]e should think about drones as long-range snipers in the military sense. For years, the United States and other countries send small teams behind lines in order to try to shoot at forces that are declared hostile connected to the battlefield. And the process for declaring forces hostile and giving snipers guidance on who they can shoot at and who they can’t is a well-known process. It can be made by military commanders [without the intercession of civilian authorities]. “And I don’t think it’s any different for drones. If we are in a — if we are fighting in Afghanistan, for example, and we know that across the border in Pakistan there are Taliban groups who are gathering and training, and then I think we could authorize either snipers — people with rifles — or drones to shoot at armed men who we see getting into pickup trucks and heading towards the Afghanistan border or who are in a — in a training exercise because they’ve been declared hostile, having those characteristics.” U.S. Drone Strike Policies a presentation of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations Media Conference Call, 1/22/2013.
Another writer, describes the hesitations that many feel about the use of drones in these words:
“[T]he real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones — and the names [‘Predator,’ ‘Reaper,’ and ‘Hellfire’] reinforce this — is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence. Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target — a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills [the subject of the strike], or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence — the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination — while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.
“This characteristic, the distance between targets and CIA executive officers at Langley, is the defining characteristic of drones. They are the zenith of the technological quest that runs back to the invention of slings and arrows thousands of years ago, efforts of the earliest perpetrators of violence to get away from their victims. That process, which brought catapults and later artillery, reached its first peak with the development of intercontinental nuclear missiles; but those are weapons of limited tactical use and have never been used. Drones allow all the alienation of long-range missions but with much more flexibility and capacity for everyday use. The net result is everyday violence with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs. This is disturbing perhaps because alienation is disturbing.
“The work of animal behaviorists like Konrad Lorenz sheds some light on why. Lorenz—a onetime member of the Nazi party who later renounced his politics and won the Nobel Prize in the 1970s—spent much of his life studying violence in animals. His book On Aggression posited a theory whereby many animals, male and female, have a natural “drive” to be aggressive against opponents, including members of their own species.
“The aggression drive, Lorenz posited, was often limited within species by a “submission” phenomenon, whereby potential victims turn off the aggressive drive in others by displaying signs of submission. In this way, most animal violence is checked before it occurs. Lorenz suggested that in humans, the submission safety valve was blunted by the technological creation of weapons, which emotionally “distanced” the killer from his victim. When a spear or sling is used to kill, victims lose the opportunity to engage in submission and trigger the aggression “off switch.” The drone represents an extreme extension of that process. Drones crossed into a new frontier in military affairs: an area of entirely risk-free, remote and even potentially automated killing detached from human behavioral cues.
“Military research seems to back this up. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychologist and former professor at West Point, has written extensively on the natural human aversion to killing. His 1995 book On Killing contains a collection of accounts from his research and from military history demonstrating soldiers’ revulsion with killing—in particular, killing at close range. He tells the story of a Green Beret in Vietnam describing the killing of a young Vietnamese soldier: “I just opened up, fired the whole twenty rounds right at the kid, and he just laid there. I dropped my weapon and cried.” The most telling accounts are with the “close” kills of hand-to-hand combat. Grossman tells of a Special Forces sergeant from the Vietnam War describing a close kill: “‘When you get up close and personal,’ he drawled with a cud of chewing tobacco in his cheek, ‘where you can hear ’em scream and see ’em die,’ and here he spit tobacco for emphasis, ‘it’s a bitch.'” A Brief History of Drones by Jonathan Sifton, The Nation, 2/7/2012
The care with which the U.S. government under President Obama makes a decision for a drone strike is described by author Dan Klaigman:
“You know, there is a vigorous, to use the Washington term, interagency process, where individual targets will be nominated. That’s the term that the military uses. And then it’s subjected to some scrutiny and vetting by various agencies; the Pentagon, the state department, the CIA. The National Security Council’s involved. They have these secure videoconferences where these things get debated. Individual cases can be debated for weeks before there’s a decision. Do they have the legal justification? Is it the right policy?
“But then ultimately, it goes to John Brennan and to Hoss Cartwright, and they would sometimes disappear into the Oval Office with the president, and the three of them would make the decision. Sometimes the president would scale back the list. And as I said before, occasionally he would widen the aperture, as the military likes to say, and increase the list. But the president also would sometimes have to be pulled out of black tie dinners or John Brennan sometimes would have to interrupt family time with the first lady and his children so that the president could come out and make these grim calls.
“It’s quite extraordinary and also extraordinary that the president himself insisted on making the decisions himself. There’s some precedent for that. It happens sometimes, but never quite as systematic as in the case of President Obama.” Dan Klaigman, author of Kill or Capture interviewed by Neal Conan on NPR, see How The President Decides To Make Drone Strikes, 6/6/2012.
Also, check out these excerpts from PROCEDURES FOR APPROVING DIRECT ACTION AGAINST TERRORIST TARGETS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES AND AREAS OF ACTIVE HOSTILITIES approved by President Barrack Obama; 5/24/2013:
“Absent extraordinary circumstances, direct action against an identified high-value terrorist (HVT) will be taken only when there is near certainty that the individual being targeted is, in fact, the lawful target and located at the place where the action will occur. Also, absent extraordinary circumstances, direct action will be taken only if there is near certainty that the action can be taken without injuring or killing non-combatants. The term ·’non-combatant” does not include an individual who is targetable as part of a belligerent party to an armed conflict, an individual who is taking a direct part in hostilities or an individual who is targetable in the exercise of national self-defense. . . . ” . . .
Lastly. when considering potential direct action against a U.S. person under this PPG, there are additional questions that must be answered. The Depat1ment of Justice (DOJ ). for example. must conduct a legal analysis to ensure that such action may be conducted against the individual consistent with the laws and Constitution of the United States.
1.C.8) The conditions precedent for any operation, which shall include at a minimum the following: (a) near certainty that an identified HVT or other lawful terrorist targets other than an identified HVT is present; (b) near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed: (c) [deleted for national security reasons] and (d) if lethal force is being employed: (i) an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation: (ii) an assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and (iii) an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives to lethal action exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.
5.B Extraordinary Cases: Variations from the Policy Guidance Otherwise Set Forth in this PPG
Nothing in this PPG shall be construed to prevent the President from exercising his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, as well as his statutory authority, to consider a lawful proposal from operating agencies that he authorize direct action that would fall outside of the policy guidance contained herein, including a proposal that he authorize lethal force against an individual who poses a continuing, imminent threat to another country’s persons. In extraordinary cases, such a proposal may be brought forward to the President for consideration as follows:
1) A proposal that varies from the policy guidance contained in this PPG may be brought forward by the Principal of one of the operating agencies through the interagency process described in Section 1 of this PPG, after a separate legal review has been undertaken to determine whether action may be taken in accordance with applicable law.
2) Where there is a fleeting opportunity, the Principal of one of the operating agencies may propose to the President that action be taken that would otherwise vary from the guidance contained in this PPG, after a separate legal review has been undertaken to determine whether action may be taken in accordance with applicable law.
3) In all cases, any proposal brought forward pursuant to this subsection must contemplate an operation that is in full compliance with applicable law.
Drones Pro and Con
—If we’ve forgotten anything, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’ll consider your suggestions.
Pro: (1) Drone strikes are an effective means of assassinating persons hostile to the interests of the U.S. and its allies. (2) Drone operations are without risk to U.S. military personnel. (3) Drone warfare is inexpensive compared to any other military technology. (4) Drone operations reduce civilian casualties compared to almost all other military operations.
Con: (1) The very inexpensiveness of drone warfare in terms of its lack of risk to U.S. personnel and its economy means that drone warfare can continue indefinitely and be used easily. (2) Backlash from local residents of the areas subjected to drone warfare may make peace even more difficult to achieve. (3) Drone attacks can be used to assassinate people, including U.S. citizens, without the possibility of judicial review or a conviction in a court of law. (4) It is highly questionable whether the U.S. government should be in the business of assassination. (5) Drone warfare is detached, impersonal, and bureaucratic; it removes the personal involvement of the killers in the act of taking a life; while soldiers sent to kill others should be as efficient as possible in that task, there is a question about whether it is a good idea for soldiers to be so completely insulated from the effects of what they are doing that killing becomes like playing a video game.
Note that on the day that an adversary develops the technical expertise to use drone warfare against the U.S. and its allies, the considerations flip, and all the pros turn to cons, and the cons turn to pros.
“Signature strikes,” in which groups of people are targeted due to suspicious patterns of behavior as seen from satellites or drones, are the most controversial use of drone warfare by the U.S. government. Signature strikes are used in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and in zones used for staging operations by U.S. adversaries, such as the tribal areas of Pakistan.