Q:If there's anyone who can provide a rebuttal to your claims of the drone war's necessity/effectiveness, it's mehreenkasana.
I never claimed the drone war was necessary or effective.
I did say I was on pseudo-hiatus, didn’t I? Be warned that unlike most, this breakdown contains personal opinions.
What is the Drone War?
The Obama administration, and the Bush administration, use drones - unmanned, semi-autonomous aircraft - to carry out air strikes on suspected militants…
This article boiled my blood with its quiet implication that the war overseas is somehow a necessity, or at least something that bears thinking on. Under its “benefits” section relating to drone strikes, it lists “It works” and “Americans don’t die doing it.” Lots of other fucking people die, though. People whose lives have the same intrinsic value as any other set of human lives. How about bring the army home and then fucking dissolve it because war is evil.
edit: this whole article is infuriating
I really do enjoy feedback on my work, whether that feedback is in agreement or disagreement. That being said, let’s get into it:
Point 1 - The Criticism of the Usage of “It Works”.
You are right. “It works” was a far too vague statement that should have been made clear. What I meant by it was that the drone strikes accomplish the job the American government wants to do; namely, to weaken Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups by killing their members. When using a semi-autonomous drone to do so, American soldiers do not die carrying out the mission of the American government. To the American government and its armed forces, I am most certain that this is a benefit.
Point 2 - War is evil, etc.
This writer wrote that, “This article boiled my blood with its quiet implication that the war overseas is somehow a necessity, or at least something that bears thinking on”.
Wow. If you do not believe that war overseas even bears honest contemplation and reflection, then we probably won’t agree on much. To blindly accept anything - whether it is that war is absolutely necessary or that it is an unjustifiable evil - I find sad. Blind faith gets us nowhere; we must use our minds to come up with our own thoughtful opinions about the world around us. But I digress.
It’s ironic that though I challenged readers to formulate a well-thought out opinion on war (and drone strikes), this writer turned around and did the exact opposite. He went on a rant about the evils of war, providing no alternative solutions or explanations to what we should do in their stead. I used to be a pure pacifist, and though I have given this very radical stance up, am still quite the idealist. I can’t wait until the awesome day when we can “bring the army home and then fucking dissolve it because war is evil”. If humans reach that point we just might survive as a species. But at the moment, that is the purest of nonsense.
The world is not a gentle place. As an idealist I’d like to think I work for the day when war will be a dark page in our history. Until we reach that enlightened state, we have to work within the system we live in. We have to accept reality and not live in fantasy. And reality, right now, is that we live in an international system in a state of anarchy, which means that with no overarching authority to appeal to, the only ultimate way to keep our interests at heart is through force. Fortunately we’ve come a long way and have enough peace protocols, international organizations, and diplomacy in place to largely avoid the necessity of force. But the reality of the system remains.
Unless you are content with leaving the men, women, and children of this country defenseless against a world that day after day proves itself capable of the most horrendous of atrocities, then you had better hope our military remains. If you are happy to admit that, then we can shake hands, agree to disagree, and go on our merry way. But blind, angry statements about the evils of war and the military with no thought behind them are nothing but a display of foolishness.
War is hell, and war has no easy answers. I won’t tell you whether I believe that American drone strikes are justifiable or not, because I do not know. I will say, however, that I find the constant stream of articles, infographics, and blog posts demonizing President Obama for the drone strikes annoying and more importantly, largely useless. Not because they hold the opinion that the drone strikes are wrong - that is your prerogative, and I haven’t made up my mind on this question myself - but because they are embarrassingly badly thought out, or not thought out at all.
If you are to criticize drone strikes, be prepared to accept the sacrifices of the alternative. Have you chosen the deaths of the American soldiers sent in to regions largely outside of government influence? Do you even know if such operations would be less detrimental to civilian lives than the drone strikes? Or do you not believe we should cary out any operations at all? If so, do not be so naive as to believe the drones are bombing nothing at all; it is known that Al Qaeda and equally nasty groups are operating in those areas. Will you be prepared to accept what may happen if they are allowed to grow unchecked? Give me an answer. Because until you put some substance behind your condemnation of the Obama administration, I really don’t want to hear it.
While it may be a bit conceited to quote an excerpt from one of my own articles, I got enough comments on this one and thought it well said enough to stand on its own.
I honestly have no idea how I feel about drone strikes. With my academic background in national security — and my senior thesis on presidential war powers — I can say that it’s an extremely nuanced and very difficult topic without one right or wrong answer.
The important thing to remember when considering your response to drone strikes is the last point the article makes: Are you ready to accept the consequences of the alternatives? You cannot simply dismiss drone strikes while at the same time decrying the number of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world is not a peaceful place.
Thanks to Ryan for linking to a recent article of mine on drone strikes.
Breakdown: The Truth about Drone Strikes.
I did say I was on pseudo-hiatus, didn’t I? Be warned that unlike most, this breakdown contains personal opinions.
What is the Drone War?
The Obama administration, and the Bush administration, use drones - unmanned, semi-autonomous aircraft - to carry out air strikes on suspected militants outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally used in Yemen in 2002, they are now most commonly used in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, to attack elements of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda elements of al-Shabaab, and like-minded terrorist organizations. Drone strikes are carried out by both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military, particularly the clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Much of what we know is pieces from conjecture, comments, anonymous sources, and a good deal of guessing thrown in. With this in mind, both the CIA and the military have “kill lists”, and if the intelligence is adequate a drone strike may be authorized. The White House apparently approves proposed targets. According to ProPublica, some CIA strikes can be approved directly the CIA director.
The reasoning behind drone strikes is obvious: militants are killed and Americans aren’t. However, even mores than war itself, it presents a massive moral and legal quandary.
How is this legal?
It isn’t. Well, it is? In reality, that is a good question. Days after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed a nearly unlimited act called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), giving the president the ability to take “all necessary and appropriate force” against anyone involved in the attack or harboring those who were (propublica.org), including American citizens. You have to understand that rules don’t always govern the rulemakers; and if they do, they can be amended into a neutered form. When it comes to war, presidents have been dramatically extending their authority since George Washington himself. Though this is a topic for another day (or breakdown), the point is that though the legality is questionable, it isn’t stopping the United States. What’s more, there is no congressional oversight to the drone strikes.
What about Civilian deaths?
Civilian deaths happen. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that between 475 to 891 civilian deaths have occurred since the drone strike program began. The government assures the public that they do all they can to keep civilian deaths limited. Due to the extreme secretive nature of the drone strikes and the lack of public oversight, we have no idea how much that is, and just have to take the government at its word. This is a dubitable prospect at best for even the most ardent supporter. Furthermore, it has come to light that the government counts all adult males killed in drone strikes as militants, regardless of evidence to the contrary. This means that the government’s estimates - always lower than outside sources - are almost doubtlessly too low.
Is this good or bad?
That is an impossible question.
The Bad: There is massive backlash against the drone strikes. Like in all forms of war, civilian casualties occur. Sites like livingunderdrones.org document a life where innocent Pakistanis live in constant fear of the buzz of drones. The stories of innocent men, women, and children blown up by a drone strike while going about their daily lives are countless. To many, this makes the program completely atrocious and the Obama administration a demonic institution. Ravings about the terror of the drone strikes are one f the most commonly leveled reasons on the blogosphere for loathing the Obama administration.
- They work.
- Americans don’t die in the process.
According to the New York Times, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated groups have been weakened by drone strikes. The government frequently releases news that key figures Al Qaeda have been killed by drone strikes. According to Avery Plaw, a political science professor at the University of Massachussets, Dartmouth, evidence exists that other means of reaching Al Qaeda and affiliates in regions that are largely lawless could cause more civilian harm than the drone strikes do.
This moral quandary is nothing new. Nearly seventy years after the fact people are still debating the legitimacy of the atomic bomb strikes on Japan that ultimately ended World War II (seriously, read Paul Fussel’s “Thank God for the Atom Bomb”. One of the best political science articles I’ve ever read). The drone strike debate - and the questions it evokes - are shockingly similar. Do/should we have bombed? Would the alternatives be/have been any better for civilians? How many of our soldiers will/would have died, and are we/should we have been willing to risk make that sacrifice?
War is hell, and war has no easy answers. I usually try to keep my breakdowns neutral, but allow me to break character and offer my own opinion. I won’t tell you whether I believe the drone strikes are justifiable or not, because I don’t know. I will say that I find the constant stream of infographics and blog posts demonizing President Obama for the drone strikes annoying and ultimately, useless. Not because they hold the opinion that the drone strikes are wrong - that is your prerogative, and I haven’t made up my mind on this question myself - but because they are embarrassingly not thought out. If you are to criticize drone strikes, be prepared to accept the sacrifices of the alternative. Have you chosen the deaths of the American soldiers sent in to regions largely outside of government influence? Do you even know if such operations would be less detrimental on civilian lives than the drone strikes? Or do you not believe we should cary out any operation at all. If so, do not be so naive as to believe the drones are bombing nothing at all; it is known that Al Qaeda and equally nasty groups are operating in those areas. Will you be prepared to accept what may happen if they are allowed to grow unchecked? Answer me. Because until you put some substance behind your condemnation of the Obama administration, I really don’t want to hear it.
Currier, Cora. “Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes”. ProPublica.
Zenko, Micah. “Targeted Killings and Congressional Oversight”. The Council on Foreign Relations.
Plaw, Avery. “Drones Save Lives, American and Others”. The New York Times.
“Executive Summary and Recommendations”. Living Under Drones.
“Counting Drone Strike Deaths." The Human Rights Clinic, Columbia University.
I actually vehemently disagree with this infographic. Whoever made this is just picking and choosing what they think a “real” issue ought to be. Their foolish opinion on what is more important is no more valid than one who puts domestic social issues first.
And as for the civilian deaths. War is hell, and as an engineer and a political scientist I dedicate myself to making sure that war doesn’t happen. When it does, innocents die. And if we learned anything from World War II, it’s that until humanity progresses to a point where we can solve our differences without resorting to violence - a truly utopian point more than likely in the far flung future - it will, at times, be necessary. I used to be a pure pacifist, but I am no longer. At times it will be necessary to fight. And when it is, innocents will die. And just as side note, I find it particularly interesting that those so willing to paint Obama as the anti-christ for his policies on drone strike don’t say a word about Bush, who started it all, or Romney, who was gung-ho about continuing them.