Iraq

Peaceniks Should Love Murder Drones, Say Drone Enthusiasts

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For the month of January, Cato Unbound is probing the West's use of murder drones. The lead essay is by Notre Dame's David Cortwright, who begins by asking "whether drone technology makes war more likely."

Are decisionmakers more prone to employ military force if they have accurate weapons that are easier to use and do not risk the lives of their service members? The use of these weapons creates the false impression that war can be fought cheaply and at lower risk. They transform the very meaning of war from an act of national sacrifice and mobilization to a distant almost unnoticeable process of robotic strikes against a secretive "kill list." Do these factors lower the political threshold for going to war?

….[T]he availability of a particular class of weaponry can influence judgments on the likely costs and viability of military action. U.S. political leaders are able to imagine intervening militarily in other countries because they have advanced weapons systems designed for that purpose.[6] The possession of drone technology increases the temptation to intervene because it removes the risks associated with putting boots on the ground or bombing indiscriminately from the air. Drone systems are "seductive," writes law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, because they lower the political and psychological barriers to killing.[7] They induce a false faith in the efficacy and morality of armed attack that could create a greater readiness to use force.

A March 2011 report from the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the U.K. Ministry of Defence concluded that the availability of drone weapons was indeed a factor in the decision of British leaders to participate in military operations in Pakistan and Yemen. In its study the Center found that manned aircraft and commando raids could have been used for the selected missions but were rejected as too risky. The decision to use force was "totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability—it is unlikely that a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available." The report urged "removing some of the horror" of these weapons so that "we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely."[8]

Drone enthusiasts Benjamin Wittes and Ritikia Singh filed the first response

To lay the matter bare, Cortright objects to military robotics because the field offers effective weaponry that keeps our forces safer while enhancing their lethality and targeting precision with respect to the enemy—the combination of which invites use. In other words, he objects to precisely what any operational commander would find attractive about drones.

As drones become smaller, more lethal, and more autonomous, they do present unique challenges. But it is very wrong to think about their novelty, as Cortright seems to, as all or mostly bad. Indeed, the field of robotics offers huge advantages both from the point of view of the effectiveness of military operations and from the point of view of human rights. On the military effectiveness side of the ledger, the logic of developments in weaponry that increase one's own lethality—allowing targeting at the highly individualized level—while protecting one's forces, may not persuade Cortright, a professor of peace studies, but it will tend to move commanders who have missions to accomplish and who have a fundamental obligation to their own troops not to expose them to undue risk.

Cortwright, "a professor of peace studies," is concerned that making war "cheaper is deeply troubling. It reduces the political inhibitions against the use of deadly violence. It threatens to weaken the moral presumption against the use of force that is at the heart of the just war doctrine." Wittes and Singh maneuver around this concern by arguing that people like Cortwright should be embracing drones: 

The United States is not going to take a hands-off approach to states like Pakistan and Yemen, where law enforcement is not a feasible option. Drone warfare permits a highly calibrated military response to situations in which the alternative may involve not lesser but far greater uses of military violence. This is a good trade. Conversely, drones also allow militaries to contemplate certain humanitarian interventions where they might never contemplate risking actual forces; consider whether the recent NATO Libyan intervention—which probably saved a considerable number of lives—would have been politically possible had U.S. forces been seriously at risk.

[W]hile the rise of drone warfare has changed the face of American counterterrorism efforts and promises far greater change in years to come, this does not present the simple and terrible moral equation that Cortright describes. What began as a surveillance tool that could, on occasion, deliver lethal force, has evolved in a short space of time into a principal means of following enemy forces onto territory in which the United States is reluctant to put large numbers of boots on the ground—and striking at them there in a limited fashion that protects innocent civilians to an unprecedented level.

Wittes' argument for drones makes perfect sense if one zeroes out the scale with the assumption that the U.S. is entitled to drop bombs whever it wants. Assessing the merits of the claim that "the United States is not going to take a hands-off approach" to country XYZ will presumably have to wait for another Cato Unbound series. 

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134 responses to “Peaceniks Should Love Murder Drones, Say Drone Enthusiasts

  1. Maybe the people of Pakistan should hate the people who are waging war and using them as human shields. If the Taliban and such were not hiding amongst civilians, there wouldn’t be any civilian causalities. That is why not wearing a uniform and hiding amongst civilians used to be one of the worst war crimes one could commit.

    1. Asidee from actually killing civillians.

      1. It is the same as killing civilians. When I hide amongst civilians I am giving my enemy no choice but to inflict collateral damage on those civilians. When those civilians die, I am responsible not my enemy.

        1. Apparently blowing up the odd civillian here and there is just the cost of doing business.
          Of course we would never deploy a pee sprinkling machine over Pakistan, hitting someone with pee is an atrocity we can all agree on.

          1. It is when you go to war. But basically by blaming the deaths of civilians on the person doing the bombing rather than the person hiding amongst them, we have created an incentive to hide amongst civilians. Hiding amongst civilians and getting the resulting deaths on CNN is the best PR any cause can ask for. It is no wonder that is exactly what they do.

            1. The aren’t we being stupid using drones because the predictable result is that more people hate us?

              This is why we don’t use Napalm anymore. Perhaps drones need to go on the shelf with flamethrowers and mustard gas?

              1. Then you are telling our enemies “go ahead hide amongst civilians and we will let you get away with trying to kill us”. That doesn’t seem to be a good idea either.

                1. You should have been a Roman John, they knew how to take care of business.

                  1. No. I am not a Roman. The Romans would have long since killed everyone in Northwest Pakistan and been done with it. It was to avoid such things that there developed the laws of war one of the most important of which is don’t hide amongst civilians.

                    1. I’m just a simple caveman, who fell into a crevasse and got thawed out by your scientists, but even I know that the most important law of war is; “Don’t kill civillians”.

                    2. I know that the most important law of war is; “Don’t kill civillians”.

                      No. Civilians die in war all of the time. The rule is “don’t target civilians”. There is a difference.

                    3. So it’s more of a guideline than a rule?

              2. Both napalm and mustard gas had big drawbacks and risks associated with their use.

                Telling the military to forgo a certain technology solely because it makes it “too easy” is certainly not going to go over well.

                1. I think it less a question about the military than it is about the civilian authority that controls the military. Part of the deterrent to reckless use of the military is the threat of American casualties and the political heat that goes with that. Remove that part of the equation and what restrains imperial Presidents from blowing up anything any time they feel like it; a spineless Congress?

                  1. Exactly. When the threat to your own side losing soldiers is almost 0, and you don’t have to look at the person you’re killing, it’s a lot easier to “pull the trigger”.

            2. Wha’ ya call what john’s smoking?

              Purple Jesus?

              Two kilos worth, please.

        2. “When I hide amongst civilians I am giving my enemy no choice but to inflict collateral damage on those civilians. When those civilians die, I am responsible not my enemy.”

          Yes, why can’t they all come out to an open field where we can wipe them out effectively with our superior weaponry? Or maybe they should carry signs stating that they are Taliban and therefore fair game? Just to be fair, you know. If they don’t play by our rules, they are heinous war criminals.

          Sorry, my standing next to a criminal in a supermarket doesn’t give you the right to kill me just because you aren’t adequately equipped to arrest and extract him safely. Nor could you be surprised if my family felt and acted upon anti-American sentiment as in response to my death.

    2. How about we fix the problem of civilian casualties by not giving a shit and letting the barbarians fuck each other over? It absolves us of responsibility, too.

      1. We can fix anything and anyone.

      2. “How about we fix the problem of civilian casualties by not giving a shit”

        The irony is by not giving one, we are. They have to decide their own fate; our interference prolongs their decision to choose to survive

        1. Wow, was that an intelligent comment made by rather?

          I’m worried that happened in the year 2012.

    3. News for you. The people of Pakistan are individuals with widely varying opinions and beliefs just like anybody else. And most of them are powerless innocents caught up in shit beyond their control.

  2. If you want to make sure you are preaching to the choir and not changing anyone’s mind, starting off with tendentious terminology like “murder drone” is a good tactic.

    1. I wish Reason would hire someone who actually knew something about the law of war to write on this stuff.

      1. I wish interventionists would fuck off. It ain’t gonna happen, but I wish it.

        1. I wish the peaceniks ever knew what the fuck they were talking about. They never do.

          1. So do I. I fucking hate pacifists.

            You weren’t implying I was a pacifist, were you?

            1. No. But they put shit like “murder drones’ up there. And it drives me nuts. You want us out of Afghanistan. Fine make the argument. But I don’t see why doing that requires twisting international law around in a way that excuses the fucking Taliban for hiding amongst the civilian population. Those deaths are entirely the responsibility of the Taliban and the other fighters in NW Pakistan that are hiding there. Now that doesn’t mean we should stay in Afghanistan. It says nothing about that question. I wish Reason would stop pretending it did.

              1. So I assume that if we didn’t have a military that could protect us from an invading force I can expect that you’ll be standing firm in the open for them to kill you?

                Your argument is akin to “our military is better than theirs, and I just don’t understand why they just won’t let us fucking kill them.”

                Frankly, it’s sick.

            2. If you aren’t for the wholesale slaughter by remote of hundreds of innocent people, you are a no good dirty pacifist that would drink a soda while you watched your wife be murdered.

              There is literally nothing in between. Nothing.

              1. Like I said above, mustard gas, napalm both were quite lethal but we stopped using them. Why?

                1. Like I said above, mustard gas, napalm both were quite lethal but we stopped using them.

                  We still use napalm. Google “Mark 77 bomb”.

                  1. In some cases where journalists reported that the U.S. military has used napalm, military spokesmen denied the use of “napalm” without making it clear that MK-77 bombs had actually been deployed instead

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_77_bomb

              2. Bullshit. That is not whole sale slaughter. If it were whole sale slaughter, we would be carpet bombing them. Instead we are striking the specific people we are after with single bombs. That is anything but wholesale.

                Thing about his. What do you expect a military to do when the forces they are fighting against attack them and run and hide in civilian areas wearing no uniforms and blending in? Anything they do will result in civilian deaths. And the fucking reason staff will be whining about how it is all their fault rather than the people who brought the war to the civilians by hiding there. It just fucking infuriates me how stupid you guys can be sometimes.

                1. According to the Government, OUR government, the Pakistanis are our allies.
                  Why aren’t we flying drones over Germany to find the terrorists hiding there?

                  1. Pakistan doesn’t have control over all of its territories. Mexico is our allies too. But that doesn’t stop the drug gangs from operating does it?

                    1. We should be droning our amigos ?

                      Look we are using these things as black ops in “friendly” countries. This is somewhat removed from the D-Day Invasion in terms of legality.

                    2. We should be droning our amigos ?

                      It’s an analogy. At least argue on the terms of the argument.

                    3. No it is not. If you can’t control your own territory and allow rogue forces to attack another country, said country has a right to come into your country and attack those forces. That is basic self defense.

                      If Pakistan doesn’t want to be bombed, they should stop attacking Afghanistan.

                2. How about, “Minimize the instances of this happening by not starting wars against groups of people who haven’t harmed you?”

                  I don’t think this would be an issue if we had just taken out al-queda and then left, even if we hit some civilians while we did it. But when we expand the war to being against the Taliban also, then to bringing democracy to Afghanistan, then to hunting militants across the border, this shit becomes inevitable. You’re simply assuming that we should be fighting the Taliban in Pakistan.

                  1. You are confusing the issue Jim. If you want to make the argument that we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, make it. But the fact is we are in Afghanistan. There is a war. An in that war the people who are in the wrong here are the people who are hiding in civilian areas using them as human shields.

                    The fact that we should end the war doesn’t make the act of hiding in civilian areas any less heinous. It is not like “well it is normally not good to do this, but if we disagree with the war, then it is okay”. Bullshit.

                  2. John, pacifists fucking suck, and interventionists fucking suck. No, I don’t agree at all with anybody here that could seriously claim war is always wrong, but let’s be frank here: we shouldn’t be sending troops OR drones to do this shit. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Yeah, calling them “murder drones” misses the point, but boo-fucking-hoo.

                    1. IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

                      Oh, go fuck yourself. There is no price too high to get our war boners stroked. NO PRICE!

                    2. *Only your Doctor can decide if Warboner is right for you.

                    3. Yeah Boo fucking hoo RPA. Lets just say it is just fucking great to hide amongst civilian. Let absolve the Taliban of all responsibility. You know they could fucking give up the war too. They could stay in NW Pakistan and give up trying to enforce their barbaric ways on everyone around them. If they did that there wouldn’t be a war then either would there?

                    4. Absolve the Taliban for what John? Being asshats? If you have such a raging hard-on to bring down a country because it’s citizens were involved in 9/11, why aren’t you pounding your shoe about the Saudis? They are barely less barbaric than those central Asian fuckers (if at all). But you don’t have the stones to tangle with them.

                3. What, John? I was agreeing with you. Those people’s lives are meaningless because our enemies said so. So what a few dozen innocent people get killed? We get an unverified death of an unverified target out of it. Woo!

                  I mean, what’s 24 dead individuals in the light of a maybe dead single terrorist. 24-to-1! So like if we could kill a thousand terrorists by murdering collaterally damaging 24,000 innocent people, that “moral” calculus works out right?

                  I mean, the sky’s the limit, right? How about a 1000-to-1? How about 1,000,000,000-to-one? Why not carpet bomb if the death of innocents doesn’t matter.

                  Kill them all, God will know his own.

                  1. “The fact that we should end the war doesn’t make the act of hiding in civilian areas any less heinous. It is not like “well it is normally not good to do this, but if we disagree with the war, then it is okay”. Bullshit.”

                    I absolutely agree. Except that’s irrelevant, because this wouldn’t be happening if we admitted this conflict IS NOT WORTH IT and stopped GIVING A FUCK.

                  2. No it is not. If you want to claim that the value of the actual enemies we are killing is outweighed by the innocents we are killing, then that is a different argument. But that is an argument that requires facts. Who is dying here? How many actual no shit civilians are dying compared to fighters. I don’t see any of that here. What i see is the mawkish using of the mere existence of civilian deaths. Moreover, we wouldn’t be killing a single civilian if the other side wasn’t hiding there.

                    Why do you guys find it so hard to admit that hiding amongst civilians is a crime? Imagine if the US were doing that. What if we took all of our soldier’s uniforms and sent them down into the towns of Pakistan to come out and fight and then blend into the population. What you people would think that would be just a great tactic?

                    1. Why do you guys find it so hard to admit that hiding amongst civilians is a crime?

                      Damn straight. And the appropriate punishment for the crime of people hiding among you that you have no knowledge of and no way to stop is that you be killed. And by a robot.

                      Just like if there was a neighborhood that had a string of robberies. The only solution would to be to burn every house down. No robberies then! Problem solved!

                    2. I don’t think you can separate the issues like you’re trying to do, John. If Problem B is a direct result of Unnecessary Action A, then you’re just spinning your wheels trying to figure out how to solve Problem B but with no regard whatsoever to changing Unnecessary Action A. It’s worrying about how to shore up your couch springs instead of addressing the fact that there’s an 800-lbs gorilla in the room sitting on it.

                    3. No Jim. What is happening here is you people don’t have a good argument for pulling out other than “we don’t like it”. So you try to change the subject and make it about dead civilians in Pakistan. Yeah, civilians die in war. So what? They especially die when you are fighting a scumbag enemy that uses them as human shields. That says nothing about whether we should be there or not. War is bad. Got it. Now tell me why this one is not worth fighting because I am not seeing “the other side is committing war crimes” as being a very good reason not to.

                    4. You’ve completely lost me. Now this is about not having a good argument for “pulling out” and dead civilians are some kind of peacenik red herring?

                      The case against killing civilians is completely and irrevocably tied to the issue of whether or not we should be fighting there to begin with, because if we find that we should not be fighting there, then the problem is immediately and automatically solved.

                    5. I don’t think you’re reading what I’m saying, so let me summarize my position for you:

                      1) God-awful animals like the Taliban using civilians as shields and collateral by hiding among them by either carrying out active hostilities in civilian areas or basing their operations in civilian areas is completely, utterly, wholly unjustifiable, wrong, abominably immoral, and totally criminal.

                      2) We SHOULD NOT be involved in these wars either way. That goes for troops AND drones, John.

                      3) Why should I give two shits about barbarians killing barbarians over stupid fucking bullshit only barbarians would kill each over? Fuck them all. I wouldn’t spend a single fucking penny on them, or send a single American to sweat, bleed, and die for them. They’re not worth the fucking time of day.

                    6. RPA

                      All reasonable points. But none of them make our drone strikes in Pakistan illegal. None of them excuse the Taliban. Just make your argument that we shouldn’t be there. But avoid calling the US war criminals for how they are waging the war. They are not. They are waging the war with remarkable restraint all things considered. Now if that is a war that shouldn’t be fought, that is one opinion but one has nothing to do with the other.

                    7. so your womanish ridiculousness is undercut by your own rhetoric.

                      The moral calculus is the same: a perverse utilitarianism of what we want to stomach in the name of maybe killing someone who may be a legitimate target in a country we aren’t at war with.

                      But hey, fuck principles, right? There’s some people to get out there and maybe kill.

                    8. Fucking pacifist squirrels.

                    9. Maybe they have warboners?

                    10. I sure hope they didn’t kill a pregnant women, because then drone bombing might have to be considered wrong.

                    11. Those women were concealing future terrorists.

                    12. so your womanish ridiculousness is undercut by your own rhetoric.

                      The moral calculus is the same: a perverse utilitarianism of what we want to stomach in the name of maybe killing someone who may be a legitimate target in a country we aren’t at war with.

                      But hey, fuck principles, right? There’s some people to get out there and maybe kill.

                  3. I mean, the sky’s the limit, right? How about a 1000-to-1? How about 1,000,000,000-to-one? Why not carpet bomb if the death of innocents doesn’t matter.

                    Actually, that’s John’s point. If those to whom you ascribe this viewpoint actually held it, then we would be carpetbombing (or hell, nuking) Pakistan right now. The fact that we are not doing so means that the Government holds a different, less inflammatory (if still repugnant) viewpoint, so your womanish ridiculousness is undercut by your own rhetoric.

                4. What do you expect a military to do when the forces they are fighting against attack them and run and hide in civilian areas wearing no uniforms and blending in?

                  Our guys could hold their actions and be ready to make attacks of opportunity when the bad guys come out of hiding.

                  1. What else does this remind you of? Police that have to do dynamic entry to handle dangerous drug cases.

    2. For the month of January, Cato Unbound is probing the West’s use of murder drones.

      I am really, really pissed off at Obama for running missions against the populations of sovereign nations without any formal delcaration of war and even more pissed about executing American civilians living in foreign lands without a single shred of due process.

      But above all that, I am fed up with journalists that use histrionics for impact instead of actually making a cogent argument against that which they oppose. It’s even worse when coming from a bright young talent like Riggs.

  3. Number Six: What are you doing?
    Baltar: Phoning my attorney.
    Number Six: That won’t be necessary.
    Baltar: Nah, he’ll know what to do. He’ll sort this out. He’s the best in the business.
    Number Six: It won’t be necessary because in a few hours no one will be left to charge you with anything.
    Baltar: What exactly are you saying?
    Number Six: Humanity’s children are returning home. Today.
    [a nuclear detonation flares in the distance]

    1. Number Six…yum. Tricia Helfer is hotter than Georgia asphalt on BG. Baltar mahy have been a sleezebag but I definately would have traded places with him on a few choice occasions.

  4. wait for solar-powered 24/7 coverage, AI, und facial recognition. >yea, I said facial…bitches

  5. I do agree John that ” Murder Drone” is a poor choice of words, “Autonomous Extra-judicial Killing Machine” sounds much more diplomatic.

    1. Contentious though it may be, the AUMF concerncing Al-Qaeda makes this not necessarily extra-judicial.

      I know, I know…”killing brown people” is a way sexier and racially-inflammatory headline, but you know, some of us value the truth.

      1. Yes, we have to kill terrorists at all costs to prevent them from killing inoccent civillians.

        1. I said nothing like that, your penchant for hysterics notwithstanding.

          Does it hurt to be so stupid?

          1. No, not really.

            1. That’s good; I would hate to see the lower orders suffer (except for meant and/or fur coats)

      2. I think that’s a debate worth having. Not that I’m an expert on this, but just trying to amalgamate the news reports I read, it sounds like we stopped fighting al-queda there a long time ago and are now just attacking anyone who ever knew somebody who’s sister’s ex-best friends-cousin’s school groundskeeper once saw a guy from al-queda.

        And no, otherwise previously unaffiliated people attacking us because we invaded their country do not count as “terrorists”.

        1. And no, otherwise previously unaffiliated people attacking us because we invaded their country do not count as “terrorists”.

          I am all about that argument. I think the Afghanistan/Pakistan operations are not only useless, they are actively counterproductive. That has nothing to do with an Afghani’s skin color OR drones, though.

          1. I’m not sure it has anything to do with drones, but I think historical evidence suggests westerners are far less angsty about wars against people who don’t look or pray like us.

            1. Like Germany?
              Like the Christian Serbs?

              Is it easier to kill those who don’t fit into the tribe? Maybe – but that does not make the motivation for such “that the U.S. wants to kill brown people.”

              The “brown people” meme is the express route to verifying that someone is a brain-dead fucking moron.

              1. There was hand-wringing over the war against Germany, and nothing like the viciousness that marked the general attitude towards the Japanese (collecting of skulls, etc.)

                Note I didn’t say war is impossible against other white, christian people: I said it’s easier when the people you’re fighting seem alien. That’s a truism of human nature.

      3. What exactly do you think the AUMF allows? And what exactly makes the AUMF valid – that Congress says so?

    2. Yeah, but “Murder Drone” is a much cooler name for a band.

    3. It’s not a poor choice of words.

      It’s an intential choice of inflammatory words to make an impact without the effort to make a real argument.

      “We should ban murder guns, because no moral person needs one”

      1. Missed it by four minutes!

  6. Cortwright or Cortright? Make up your mind, Riggs.

  7. “The United States is not going to take a hands-off approach to states like Pakistan and Yemen, where law enforcement is not a feasible option.”

    “Kill them all, let God sort them out.” Is that in the Constitution? And why are we “enforcing the law” in other countries in the first place? If our government wants to murder innocent people, shouldn’t it do it at home?

    1. God you are stupid Venneman.

      1. Stopped clock in this case. What is the Constitutional prerogative to be “hands-on”? If you want to be Team America you could at least suggest an amendment for legitimizing it.

  8. “Murder drones”? Really? I know this site isn’t exactly neutral, but it is called “Reason,” not “Emotion”.

    How is that any different from every time some liberal mouthpiece or something uses the phrases “cop-killer bullet” or “assault weapon”? They’re meaningless, bogus terms made up to scare people.

    1. If a gun is used to kill someone in cold blood, it is a “murder weapon.” If a drone is used to kill someone in cold blood it is a “murder drone.” T

      That does not mean all guns or drones are used for murder. There are many valid uses for drones, and I wouldn’t have any problem with the military using one on a physical battlefield to neutralize enemy tanks, planes, etc.

      Using the drones for assassination purposes against people not on an active battlefield and not in self-defense without charges or even the pretense of formal legal mechanism is “murder” as far as I’m concerned.

      1. I’ll co ring up Al Qaeda and tell them to come go out in a battlefield where we’re allowed to kill them, then.

        Seriously, do you not know what “asymmetric warfare” is? They aren’t bringing tanks, planes etc. to a “physical battlefield” precisely BECAUSE it’d be easier for us.

        1. Dude, I don’t give a flying fuck about Al Qaeda goat fornicators out in the Pakistani wilderness – as long as they leave my family and I alone. I’m not asking the military to wipe every Al Qaeda creep off the face of the earth, because I don’t stoop to their level.

          Certainly I don’t want innocents killed as collateral damage because we’re too risk-averse to extract these alleged terrorists in a minimally-invasive fashion.

          More than anything I fear what drones could do in the hands of the enemies we keep making around the world. I don’t expect everyone to like us, but sending in robots that kill peoples’ innocent grandfathers and children on accident is the best terrorist recruiting tool imaginable.

          1. “As long as they leave my family and I alone”.

            I hate to pull the 9/11 card…but there’s a few thousand families that would object here. And thousands more that knew people in those families. My own included.

            I wish there were no collateral damage in war too, because I’m not a monster, but quite honestly, the division between civilian and bad guy is nowhere near as clear as you seem to think it is. And I think we both know Al Qaeda damn well intentionally hides within civilian populations specifically because they can blame collateral damage on us, and we both know that’s a BS argument. That doesn’t mean I think we should more or less play right into their hands being trigger-happy, but I also don’t think we shoudl denounce a very, very effective tool because it has collateral damage. Because guess what? Ground operations have collateral damage too.

            1. Sandy is right: how long before all those Waziri goatherds are flying planes into the Freedom Tower? Better kill ’em all just in case.

              1. Strawman argument.

      2. Oh, and for the record, if a gun is used in a murder, it doesn’t make ALL guns “murder weapons”, it makes that specific gun the murder weapon in that case.

        There was a shooting last week on my street. Perp used a Glock 19, according to the cops. Should I go around finding every cop I can and tell them they’re carrying a murder weapon in their holster? Of course not, that’s silly. If I’m going to give cops shit for carrying Glocks, it’s because I prefer SIGs, not because they’re “murder weapons”.

        1. And we’re talking, very specifically, about drones that have already killed thousands, many of them innocent people and children. Where did anyone say all drones were murder weapons? I think I very clearly stated there were certainly compelling uses that weren’t extralegal assassinations.

          1. “Where did anyone say all drones were murder weapons?”

            Aside from, you know, the article? And you were the one defending calling them that.

            1. Oh, you mean the article talking about drones that have been actually used to murder people? Yeah, those are called “murder drones.” Drones have been used for decades, but for surveillance, not killing.

  9. Oddly enough, I don’t see the following argumentmade:

    A drone operator, not worried about the possibility of death, is far more likely to respect rules of engagement that require him to not fire at what appears to be a threat.

    In the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers who sought nothing more than to survive (and were rewarded for every VC corpse they could produce) were far more likely to shoot first and ask questions later.

    There’s less of a need to shoot first and ask questions later if the controller’s life is not at risk.

    I am not comfortable with drones because the operators only face the consequences of discipline by their chain of command. If theri chain of command is one that seeks and reqards brutality and mayhem, then they become a very bad thing: imagine if LAbert Speer had been able to supply these things to the Wermacht or to the Einsatzgruppen in 1938.

    1. Could it have been any worse in 1938? If there is one thing that history teaches us it is that armies have no problems killing lots of people.

      And I think you make a great point about drones making it easier to follow the laws of war.

      1. I think it would have been worse: the drones would allow fewer troops to surveil more territory. Partisans would have been unable to find safe havens in the woods. The drones would not be impeded by refugees etc.

        In the end, fear of partisans and guerillas did temper some German commanders in the zeal with which they brutalized the population. It’s the loss of that check that troubles me.

        AS a thought experiment, imagine a modern day Hitler or Nemeniah Scudder rising to power, where he doesn’t have to put boots on the ground but instead can have drones do a share of the dirty work. It’s easy to see how such a weapon is particularly powerful tool of oppression in his army’s arsenal.

        1. I think you could make the case that ANY weapon or weapon system would be bad in the hands of tyrants and dictators.

    2. I have honestly never heard that argument before, and it sounds like a good one.

    3. It might make it easier for the drone operators to follow the rules of war, but the point of Cortwright’s essay is that not having to put our soldiers in harms way to make war makes it that much easier for politicians to justify sending the drone in the first place.

      In general I tend to agree. As war gets more and more “sanitary” (for our side at least) the incentive to avoid the use of military force decreases. If you can solve the “problem” from the other side of the planet without ever having to see the person you’re trying to kill, much less the results of the “collatoral damage” then political leaders (the president and/ or congress) will be much more likely to take the easy way out and send in the drones when in the past they would have done nothing because the risk to our troops was too high.

      1. but the point of Cortwright’s essay is that not having to put our soldiers in harms way to make war makes it that much easier for politicians to justify sending the drone in the first place.

        I completely agree with this. It’s one of the many reasons why I am very unhappy that the Pentagon has been developing this technology.

        1. It isn’t the regular military that you have to worry about. It is the SOCOM and Intel players that control these things – without a clear chain of command subject to UCMJ. That is the crowd that kills someone just because we can.

      2. As war gets more and more “sanitary” (for our side at least) the incentive to avoid the use of military force decreases.

        And as you improve the road, people have an incentive to drive with less care, but the improvement is still worth it.

  10. Carpet bombing was good enough for our grandfathers so its good enough for us.

  11. Murder Drones don’t kill people, Presidents do.

  12. Yo, Riggs: Drones don’t kill people, people kill people.

    1. Missed it by two fucking minutes.

  13. The pro-drone arguments-both in the article and in the comments here-skirt around the point that Cortright is making. It’s not about whether it’s right or wrong for a general in the field to employ drones. It’s about the political dimension: the apparent ease and lack of risk will make presidents (who typically know nothing of war) use drones to kill with little thought.

    The problem is not the drones themselves; the technology of war will constantly advance and it’s unrealistic to think that anything can be done about that. Rather, we have to look to our political institutions and make sure that meatheads like Bush and Obama aren’t careless with these weapons.

  14. Here is the deal:

    There are these things called “drones”. They are tools, which can be used for good or for ill (much like guns). If you believe that the Afghanistan war is morally wrong, then any tool used within that war can be called (by you) an item that facilitated a murder. If you do not view the Afghanistan occupation that way, then you can parse whether this weapon or that weapon is wise to use, effective to use, or moral to use.

    The bottom line is that calling them “murder drones” is as fucking stupid as calling them “Murder M16s” or “murder bayonets” or “murder handguns”. You sound like a complete moron when you employ emotionally-laden intellectually vacuous terminology like that.

    1. That “emotionally-laden intellectually vacuous terminology” gets used all the time in articles here. I’m constantly bitching about it. See any of Shikha’s immigration pieces. Of course people give me all kinds of grief as though I’m disagreeing with the premise of the articles by pointing out lazy writing.

      1. I noticed it too, and it’s stopped me from sharing some otherwise-good articles with friends of mine who don’t already share my political inclination.

    2. RVB you give me hope. Reason’s writers might not be honest but you still are.

    3. For instance the word “murder weapon” is never used to annotate a weapon that has been used to commit murder. Anyone who uses said term in the context of actual killings is being overemotional.

  15. How many drones have been court martialed for killing the wrong people?

    This is another attractive factor to politicians, the drone can’t be put on the stand or go on to write a best seller.

  16. We luvs us some killin, and no fancy pants college perfessurs is gunna stop us.

  17. Cortwright is wrong; there is no “moral presumption against the use of force” in the just war doctine.

    1. …to be a ‘professor of peace studies’ and not understand just war doctrine is ridiculous.

      1. The Just War Doctrine is ridiculous.

        1. So there is never a just reason to fight?

  18. striking at them there in a limited fashion that protects innocent civilians to an unprecedented level.

    I wonder if those two clowns think the “spillover” from Jared Loughner’s (mostly) successful assassination attempt fall within acceptable limits. How much collateral damage is acceptable, if you get your primary target?

  19. But avoid calling the US war criminals for how they are waging the war. They are not.

    Only losers commit war crimes.

  20. Thank Christ we did not have any widespread Riggsian attitude in WW2. I can imagine the tears after winning that war. ‘You monsters! How dare you win using nukes-you should have sacrificed thousands of US soldiers or allowed Japan to continue on. MURDER NUKES!!1’

    1. Actually, Japan attempted to surrender before we dropped the nukes. It didn’t have to be done.

      1. They attempted to conditionally surrender, with conditions like allowing the government that put Japan on the warpath to begin with to continue, which we had already told them was unacceptable.

        They knew we wouldn’t accept the conditional surrender, because we had already told them that. Don’t try to revise history by making Japan look like the victim rather than the aggressor.

        1. Crafting a phony surrender just so they could act all sympathetic later after we nuke ’em.

          Those japs are a clever bunch.

  21. I would usually prefer to target civilians. Why go after the bodyguards if you have a choice? It’s almost always civilians who make the trouble, the armed forces being merely their hired hands.

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