The Drone Debate

A lot of reader discussion was generated around our recent writeup of a whistleblower stepping forward to accuse the U.S. government of, among other things, downplaying and downright distorting the number of civilian casualties from drone strikes. One reader shakes his head:

The use of drones isn’t a solution. If the goal is to prevent future terrorism, taking out leaders isn’t accomplishing anything. By targeting individuals with drone strikes (especially with so many casualties), we are the best advertisers for more terrorism. Ending terrorism is a war of ideas, and we’re giving a lot of people the idea to join terrorist organizations.

Who would you believe? The guy calling for revolution next to you, or the shadowy country dropping bombs on your friends with no clear reason?

Another reader is on the same page:

Isn’t it obvious by now that terrorist organizations aren’t based on a strict vertical structure? Cutting down one leader is like cutting off the head of a hydra. We make a few hundred new recruits with every attack. You can’t kill your way out of this situation.

But another asks, “What’s the alternative?”

Comparing anything to a perfect solution (undefined, of course) is less than useful. One alternative it to send in the Marines, but even the Republicans aren’t suggesting that. The ugliness of this war is not a result of U.S. policy; it’s a result of the terrorists, who make it absolutely as terrible as they can. There is nothing they will not do. If they had nuclear weapons, they’d use them in a heartbeat.

Another reader takes a long historical view:

Nothing wrong with drone strikes per se, but people have some sort of totally odd illogical concern with them. Consider this:

We used to fight with hands, so we were face to face. Then clubs, so we were three feet apart, and rocks, so maybe ten feet apart. Then spears, so we could fight and kill from 50 feet away. And then guns, so say 100-1000 yards away. Then how about tanks—maybe a half mile or more away. And then planes dropping bombs, so we could kill from what, +30,000 feet away. Then missiles, and then intercontinental missiles.

Get the obvious point? As technology has advanced, so have the ways we can kill and fight and the distances between us.

So what is a drone strike? It’s still killing, from a distance, same as we have ever done with every other form of combat and weapon. No reason to get upset about it. And a drone is no more humane or inhumane than a person in a ship firing a missile from 500 miles away or a person in a tank shooting from two miles away or a person dropping a bomb from 30,000 feet.

In fact, I would argue that drones are far more humane than most other distant killing tools, since you can be far more exacting in who is killed. Can they make mistakes? Yes. But which is worse: a bomb from 30,000 feet that kills tens of thousands and wipes out an entire town, or a drone that kills 100 specific people, minimal surrounding damage, and might sadly sadly catch a few innocents.

People need to stop with their illogical outrage over drone strikes.

If you have strong feelings on the issue, drop me an email.