Drones



Due to the fact that someone wrote something about drones, I sometimes feel like I have to revisit the subject and clumsily talk about it. This is what I have, so far, because I think that the enthusiasm for the use of drones is very similar to the enthusiasm that existed for invading Iraq in 2003.

Using drones is a form of remote-control warfare that gives us a great body count but actually causes a lot of viable intelligence sources to dry up or change communication methods, resulting in less capability for figuring out what's going on, big picture. Drones were supposed to supplement intelligence gathering, and then someone stuck missiles under the wings and told a general officer that "oh yeah, and we can kill with this thing, too."

With that, the collective wisdom is "let's do this cheap, fast, and with a lot of violence." When drones are no longer useful, what then? We do not live in a world where a weapon that gives us enormous advantages is going to be unanswered.

This mentality caused us to do things in Iraq "cheap, fast, and with a lot of violence," and that led us to a situation where we lost the big picture and ended up driving around in remote parts of the country with the wrong vehicles and taking huge casualties for years and years. When our tactics were challenged, and when we had no viable answers, we blundered on, sacrificing lives for little or no gain. Will we do that when our drones are dropping out of the sky or can no longer find viable targets?

For reasonably little cost, and with no threat to a human pilot, the drone is being used in two ways. First, it has the ability to collect intelligence, not limited to imagery, communications, and numerous other emitters. Second, you can combine that with the ability push a button and deliver weapons mounted on the drone or delivered from another platform.

This can be done from a command and control center that allows more than one or two people to assess risk and act on a threat. This distributes accountability from one pilot to a remote pilot and the intelligence and command personnel working in the same space.

When you have a room full of people who can kill someone, the problem is, they tend to kill a lot of people and can avoid a lot of accountability at the same time. This eliminates the idea that one person is going to pull a trigger. The room pulls the trigger. The room engages in the collective decision to use all of the tools at their disposal to justify pulling the trigger. Yes, the remote pilot hits the button, but he does so with a room full of people there to share the consequences. This means that if you have a problem with what the drone killed, you have a problem with a room full of people, not a pilot. And that room has a lot of plausible deniability.

Do you want America to have a thousand of those rooms?There is going to be a moment of clarity when someone says that using drones to kill people wasn't really the game changer we thought it was, and that it will lead to a response from our enemies that ended up being more costly than we ever could have imagined.

Yes, Ann Laurie's analogy to Trayvon Martin is ridiculous, but the debate over whether or not we should be killing people with drones is not one that should be rooted in legality but in strategy. If our strategy is wrong, being able to say that this was a moral, legal, or just thing to do won't mean anything.