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Visualization of Drone Strikes
March 26, 2013 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: A visualization of drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. [Via]
posted by homunculus (88 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Drones Are in the Details: Why it matters if the Pentagon takes command of the CIA’s drones.
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on March 26, 2013


When the Whole World Has Drones: The precedents the U.S. has set for robotic warfare may have fearsome consequences as other countries catch up.
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by dunkadunc at 12:13 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's like a really smooth Missile Command where you are the bad guy, with the screams of dying children in your head, but it's missing the white diamond "explosion" at the end representing the last gasp of decency in the United States foreign policy.
posted by adipocere at 12:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Video Game Pitch:

You play a lengthy campaign of tedious drone strikes against faceless people in the Pakistani hinterlands, doing what you're told and occasionally unlocking medals (achievments). All you see onscreen is the drone video feed.

The game doesn't ramp up to a boss mission. Instead, the game camera suddenly pulls back from your drone console, to show your drone trailer being stormed by the pissed-off relatives of all the children you killed.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:22 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honest question: What could prevent someone from disrupting a baseball game with a radio-controlled flying craft of some type or other as a form of protest against drones?
posted by Ardiril at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2013


Honest question: What could prevent someone from disrupting a baseball game with a radio-controlled flying craft of some type or other as a form of protest against drones?
23 hours a day in solitary confinement until eventually you kill yourself?
posted by fullerine at 12:25 PM on March 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


The category of victims we call “OTHER” is classified differently depending on the source. The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise. This is a very grey area for us. These could be neighbors of a target killed. They may all be militants and a threat. What we do know for sure is that they are targeted without being given any representation or voice to defend themselves.

So basically we don't really know who we are killing, but oh well at least we have killed 47 "high value targets." Dehumanization is a bitch ain't it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:27 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


We had much higher standards when we fire bombed Dresden. Oh. Right we were at war with Germany and Dresden is in Germany. Afghanistan? They are our ally. Oh. Right the Taliban use the mountainous regions there to move in and out of Pakistan.
Should we send in "boots on the ground"? Volunteers, please.
That said, I think we should have got out of Afghanistan a long time ago...
But then we also use drones now in Yemen and Somalia...what to do?
posted by Postroad at 12:38 PM on March 26, 2013


I kind of hate the image they're using in that article, how it's freeze-framed at 2010. Here's the actual graphic in case anyone missed it.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:39 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first link ("Out of Sight, Out of Mind") is the graphic, just to be clear.
posted by homunculus at 12:49 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda. I don't think there is one. Civilians will always die in war; the question is whether civilian deaths are minimized, and proportional to the military objective being achieved. Compare the civilian deaths from drone strikes to those in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the successes achieved against al Qaeda in each campaign.
posted by Dasein at 12:52 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a fairly even-handed account of some of the limitations of the database they're drawing on, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It's a respectable tally, but it's generally taken to represent the upper bound of serious attempts to track drone casualties. There are other well-regarded tallies that report considerably lower figures.
posted by yoink at 12:56 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia on the 2006 airstrike
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on March 26, 2013


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda.

Don't. Ignore Al Qaeda. We are better than them.

Dealing with a few terrorist attacks is worth not killing children, abusing human rights, or eroding civil liberties stateside.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:09 PM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda. I don't think there is one.

This is incredibly disingenuous.
posted by odinsdream at 1:12 PM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe you can explain why you feel that way?
posted by lazaruslong at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2013


Dunkadunc raises the critical point and expresses their opinion and judgement about that. Its a value-judgement. I'm guess not only is this the higher bound of a set of attempted reasonable estimates but that in fact, no one involved really has a fucking clue.
posted by sfts2 at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2013


Here's a fairly even-handed account of some of the limitations of the database they're drawing on, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It's a respectable tally, but it's generally taken to represent the upper bound of serious attempts to track drone casualties. There are other well-regarded tallies that report considerably lower figures.

Linking it with the other data set and presenting everyone not named as a high value target as collestoral damage seems incredibly dubious as well.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had much higher standards when we fire bombed Dresden.

Well during WWII we also locked up hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans in internment camps. Do you suggest we do the same to all Americans whose ancestry happens to be from a country which we are currently bombing? Cause that seems to be the same logic you are using here, which seems to be a pretty weak argument...ie we did it during WWII so I guess its not so bad if we continue doing it.

But then we also use drones now in Yemen and Somalia...what to do?

Quit prosecuting proxy wars in the name of national security. We tried that during the cold war and it led us to where we are today...something, something, blowback.

Maybe you can explain why you feel that way?

I can't explain why odinsdream feels that way, but it is pretty disingenuous...or at best coming from a place of supreme gullibility. It assumes that there are no other options than endless proxy wars in the name of national security, which on its face is morally dubious and strategically unsound. Unless of course the end goal is a hegemonic system. If that is in fact the goal then I think we should be very open and upfront about it rather than cloaking it in patriotism and protecting Americans. If certain people agree that we should set up a hegemony and kill everyone who gets in the way then it would be great if they would be open about that instead of playing these pointless rhetorical games of cat and mouse.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:27 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda.

Use An Axe, Not A Scalpel. FP is (free) members-only, I'll summarize:
This focus on taking out the leaders of essentially leaderless networks (that is, interconnected cells that are highly self-organizing and at least semi-autonomous) has led to serious difficulties in the field. For example, many intelligence operatives and military servicemembers who plan and conduct drone operations have found that, all too often, the occasional strike from the sky inflicts damage that the networks can work around and quickly repair. In the meantime, the connections that the killed "leader" had are no longer discernible. Which means, in practical terms, that the slow attrition of drone campaigns, though it may hurt the enemy, does even more harm to the counter-terrorists' store of knowledge about these networks. ... Shortly before leaving office, Leon Panetta reaffirmed the traditional view when he said that loss of leaders had put al Qaeda "on the verge of strategic defeat." This is outmoded thinking. One need only look to the many fronts on which al Qaeda is operating today -- even in Iraq, where we are gone, the terrorists are back, and the country is burning -- to see that the global war on terror has morphed into terror's war on the world. ... The challenge today is to think beyond using new tools in old ways, to break through to new strategies and concepts of operations made possible by the rise of remotely piloted vehicles. For David Ronfeldt and me, this means operating in concentrated bursts of action, striking networks not at a single "decisive point" -- they don't have such -- but rather at several points at once -- what we call "swarming." Far better to go after al Qaeda by doing a lot more surveillance, for longer periods, prior to attacking. Then, when the network node or cell has been sufficiently illuminated, it can be eliminated in a series of simultaneous strikes that give the enemy little or no chance to hide or flee.
Simultaneous strikes is one way, instead of slow "decapitiation" strikes, if this is a "war." But if we drop the Civilians will always die in war framing, another is coordinated police-type actions, arresting and eliminating support networks. Another way is to strengthen state and quasi-state institutions, strangling the shadow-state nature that many of these terrorist networks operate in.

Even better is multiple methods, as enemy organizations may adapt to one style of fighting but will have a much harder time adapting to three or four different approaches simultaneously. Only state actors have the resources to act on such a large scale.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2013


We had much higher standards when we fire bombed Dresden.

No.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2013


Don't. Ignore Al Qaeda. We are better than them.

Your solution is: let terrorists murder us, and take comfort in the fact that we're better than them? Glad we're clear on that.

Simultaneous strikes is one way

Simultaneous strikes against what? Using what?

strengthen state and quasi-state institutions

Nation-building in the FATA, Yemen and Somalia? The U.S. couldn't nation-build within 50 miles of Baghdad, and the effort involved thousands of troops on the ground. How would you ensure effective state control of these areas without effectively having the U.S. invade them?

For example, many intelligence operatives and military servicemembers who plan and conduct drone operations have found that, all too often, the occasional strike from the sky inflicts damage that the networks can work around and quickly repair.

That's not a universal assessment of the effect of drone strikes. There are not an unlimited number of skilled terrorists capable of organizing attacks against the West, and planning and execution is seriously hampered when you can't communicate, move or meet without the risk of a drone strike.
posted by Dasein at 1:49 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda.

Focus on security at home rather than killing innocents abroad.
posted by MobileDev at 1:57 PM on March 26, 2013


Your solution is: let terrorists murder us, and take comfort in the fact that we're better than them? Glad we're clear on that.

If the only alternative were the deaths of thousands innocents abroad as the direct result of our actions--which is clearly a false dilemma anyway--then yes I would be willing to accept the slightly increased risk of death for both me and my loved ones. We could make up for it by driving cars slightly less often.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your solution is: let terrorists murder us, and take comfort in the fact that we're better than them? Glad we're clear on that.

Let's put this into perspective here. More people die every year to automobile accidents than to all the terrorist attacks on the United States in its entire history. Driving them puts us in more danger than virtually anything else in our lives.

But by comparison the tiny, tiny possibility of dying or being injured in a terrorist attack is so threatening that it's acceptable for us to kill a lot of people, including many innocents, on the off chance it might reduce those already miniscule odds a bit more?

Call me when you're talking about drone strikes on car manufacturers being acceptable. Otherwise, I think this is an absurd argument to make. We can have reasonable security and prevent more serious attacks (such as with nuclear or chemical or biological weapons) without dropping bombs on innocent people. It's not an either-or scenario.

(And on preview, what IjonTichy said.)
posted by amc.concepts at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the only alternative were the deaths of thousands innocents abroad as the direct result of our actions

Nobody should discount civilian deaths, but the data is showing it as closer to hundreds. If you only count CIA rather than DOD operations the number would be much smaller.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on March 26, 2013


Nobody should discount civilian deaths, but the data is showing it as closer to hundreds. If you only count CIA rather than DOD operations the number would be much smaller.

Pakistan is, I believe, not the only place where we're using drones.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:09 PM on March 26, 2013


More people die every year to automobile accidents than to all the terrorist attacks on the United States in its entire history.

Al Qaeda was working hard to change that, and will again if given the chance. In any event, the whole car accident/terrorist attack calculus totally ignores the most important aspect of terrorism: terror. If terrorists were bringing down an airplane a month in the U.S. using bombs, it wouldn't matter that an order of magnitude more people die on the roads every year - no one would get on a plane, and every U.S. airline would go bankrupt. Terrorism inflicts an unacceptable psychological and economic toll, to say nothing of the people it kills.

To turn the argument on its head, a lot more people die every year in automobile accidents than are killed by drones, so maybe I shouldn't worry about people killed by drones? This just really strikes me as the wrong way to think about the problem and response.
posted by Dasein at 2:15 PM on March 26, 2013


Pakistan is, I believe, not the only place where we're using drones.

It is the major location that the DOD are using drones and the location in which the are used most like conventional airstrikes - if you were going to hit thousands of civilian casualties it would be via Pakistan.
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2013


In any event, the whole car accident/terrorist attack calculus totally ignores the most important aspect of terrorism: terror.

But I was responding to a question of yours: "Your solution is: let terrorists murder us, and take comfort in the fact that we're better than them?" My answer was yes, that is my solution.

You're now bringing up a different issue:

"Terrorism inflicts an unacceptable psychological and economic toll, to say nothing of the people it kills."

...my response to which would be that state-sponsored drone murder also inflicts an unacceptable psychological and economic toll, and I would like to hold the actions of my own country to a higher standard than I do those of terrorists. Otherwise, I would see no particular reason to side with my own country over terrorists, except that this is where I happen to live.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:26 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would see no particular reason to side with my own country over terrorists

I am consistently astonished at the fact that some people can't see the most basic moral distinctions. The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties. Terrorists try to maximize them. If you don't see that as a reason to side with one over the other, I guess I we don't have much to talk about.
posted by Dasein at 2:36 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first link in the OP is a slide show and animated bar chart that takes a while to play through; here's an interactive map from a Slate article last October that displays all of the information immediately.
posted by XMLicious at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2013


To turn the argument on its head, a lot more people die every year in automobile accidents than are killed by drones, so maybe I shouldn't worry about people killed by drones? This just really strikes me as the wrong way to think about the problem and response.

No, what I'm saying is that innocent people dying should have equal weight regardless of where they die, how they die, the color of their skin, or any other factor. So the point of the comparison is that lots of people quite needlessly die in cars every year and we should be doing more to change that, and that we're quite needlessly killing lots of people in foreign countries and we should be doing more to change that.

And as for my initial point regarding the relative dangers, you're quite correct that terror should be factored into the equation. But through these drone strikes we're essentially inflicting terror on innocent people in other countries. So we just end up circling back to the same problem as before, the same central question: Do we need to bomb these people in order to attain a reasonable standard of security for ourselves?

And I'm still arguing that we already have reasonable security (and for evidence, look at how few people have died in terror attacks in our history, which is the real point of the car accident comparison) and therefore we don't need to be carrying out our own terrifying attacks on people in other countries.

I am consistently astonished at the fact that some people can't see the most basic moral distinctions. The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties. Terrorists try to maximize them. If you don't see that as a reason to side with one over the other, I guess I we don't have much to talk about.

If, as a result of our actions, we end up inflicting the same number of casualties (or, as it happens, far, far worse) then morally speaking there's really no difference at all, intentions be damned.
posted by amc.concepts at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Simultaneous strikes against what? Using what?

AQ and AQ affaliates, possibly using *gasp* drones.

Let me be clear - I am not against drones qua drones, or missiles fired from them. But the whack-a-mole method of decap strikes against AQ and AQ affiliates is not disrupting the networks themselves. Do you recommend that we continue the current method of strikes?

The U.S. couldn't nation-build within 50 miles of Baghdad,

After destroying and gutting every civic institution in Iraq. If you misread me that badly, perhaps I am not explaining myself well enough. By providing support to states that already exist (instead of eliminating and then creating new ones from the ground-up), we can disrupt the support base that terrorists rely on.

This creates other problems (see: Pakistan, Chile, South Vietnam).

The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties.
About that.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:44 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am consistently astonished at the fact that some people can't see the most basic moral distinctions. The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties. Terrorists try to maximize them. If you don't see that as a reason to side with one over the other, I guess I we don't have much to talk about.

The U.S. killing and injuring hundreds or thousands of times as many people and laying waste to entire countries in its response to terrorism seems like a pretty basic moral distinction. We may "try" to minimize civilian casualties but we would appear to be really, really bad at it and I personally can't fault anyone for ceasing to believe the "no, really, this time we aren't going to commit enormous atrocities for self-serving bullshit reasons we can only swallow because it's people other than Americans who pay most of the price" story at some point.
posted by XMLicious at 2:45 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties. Terrorists try to maximize them.

No, as you just said, terrorists are trying to maximize terror. Their goal isn't to kill people, their goal is to achieve political goals by inducing fear in a population. That's why they would prefer to kill fewer people in a spectacular manner, as opposed to more people in a subtle manner; i.e. increasing the risk of traffic accidents would result in the deaths of thousands but would do nothing to further their aims. Similarly, the goal of drone-wielding states isn't to kill "enemy combatants", a category which seems to be loosely defined at best, but to maximize the safety and security of the state. Both groups of people want to achieve political goals in a manner that will, with certainty, result in the deaths of civilians. That one of the groups expresses a bit more regret about the necessity is nice but ultimately of little consequence.

From a more practical standpoint, if intending to kill civilians results in the same number of civilian deaths as the intent to not kill civilians, I'm somewhat unimpressed by the real-world efficacy of those good intentions, as I'm sure are the families of the dead.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:50 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The U.S. killing and injuring hundreds or thousands of times as many people and laying waste to entire countries in its response to terrorism seems like a pretty basic moral distinction.

Which is for the most part neither done with drones nor really a response to terrorism.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If, as a result of our actions, we end up inflicting the same number of casualties (or, as it happens, far, far worse) then morally speaking there's really no difference at all, intentions be damned.

Bullshit. If the U.S. targets thousands of terrorists over the course of several years, and in the process kills a few hundred civilians, there's absolutely a moral difference from terrorists who try for years to kill tens of thousands of civilians but only manage to kill a few hundred.
posted by Dasein at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2013


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda.

Purely defensive security measures in the US. 9/11 could have been stopped with cockpit door locks, as one example, as opposed to a pre-emptive invasion of Afghanistan.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:04 PM on March 26, 2013


I would be happy to hear an alternative to drone strikes that results in fewer civilian casualties while disabling al Qaeda.

Diplomacy.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bullshit. If the U.S. targets thousands of terrorists over the course of several years, and in the process kills a few hundred civilians, there's absolutely a moral difference from terrorists who try for years to kill tens of thousands of civilians but only manage to kill a few hundred.

I don't think the (very) arguable moral superiority of our intentions outweighs the inarguable negative moral implications of our actions. Furthermore, I think you're assigning a moral quality to our leaders that just doesn't exist anywhere, in any person. See the link above with regards to the "double tap" policy.
posted by amc.concepts at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am consistently astonished at the fact that some people can't see the most basic moral distinctions. The U.S. tries to minimize civilian casualties. Terrorists try to maximize them. If you don't see that as a reason to side with one over the other, I guess I we don't have much to talk about.

Well, it's just that we have killed over 100,000 people in response to an attack that killed about 3000. It's a big enough difference in scale that you probably have to look at a bit more than intentions.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:13 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which is for the most part neither done with drones nor really a response to terrorism.

It has quite a bit of bearing on the "well obviously you have to side with the U.S., morally, because what the terrorists do is so much worse" argument, which is what that statement was responding to.

As far as our actions being a response to terrorism - do you have amnesia or something? The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was specifically justified by invoking NATO Article 5, the "an armed attack against one or more of the Allies shall be considered as an attack against all" thing. And the pre-emptive invasion and occupation of Iraq occurred and was supported by the American people with the explicit rationale that we were imminently going to come under attacks similar to what we suffered in 9/11 by a nation our own State Department had long declared to be a "State Sponsor of Terrorism". (And then took off that list when we wanted to sell them weapons and anthrax in the eighties, and put back once we were done.)

The fact that many people in decision-making positions knew this was an utter falsehood in no way elevates our moral position and in fact is considerably less virtuous than sincerely thinking that we were launching a war to "get them before they get us" and that the victims and war refugees (who were fleeing before the war even began) in the invaded country and surrounding region will just have to suffer for our security.

So no, there is not some obvious inherent moral superiority that would oblige all right-thinking men to side with the U.S. without question.
posted by XMLicious at 3:15 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you don't see that as a reason to side with one over the other, I guess I we don't have much to talk about.

Also, people here are refraining from telling you that you side with terrorists or that you want to let terrorists murder us just because we have a disagreement on the best way to reduce the threat. If it isn't too much trouble, I would appreciate if you did the same.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:15 PM on March 26, 2013


Drone strikes don't stop terrorists trying to attack the USA. They encourage it.
posted by knapah at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as our actions being a response to terrorism - do you have amnesia or something? The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was specifically justified by invoking NATO Article 5, the "an armed attack against one or more of the Allies shall be considered as an attack against all" thing.

And you know the rest of it as well as I do: Afghanistan was attacked because they couldn't plausibly invade Iraq before doing that first, Iraq was attacked because they wanted to attack it and terrorism gave them an excuse.
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2013


Artw: And you know the rest of it as well as I do: Afghanistan was attacked because they couldn't plausibly invade Iraq before doing that first, Iraq was attacked because they wanted to attack it and terrorism gave them an excuse.

There is no way the American people would have tolerated not attacking Afghanistan after they refused to hand over the people responsible for 9/11.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:12 PM on March 26, 2013


And you know the rest of it as well as I do: Afghanistan was attacked because they couldn't plausibly invade Iraq before doing that first, Iraq was attacked because they wanted to attack it and terrorism gave them an excuse.

But even if you pull a "you must ignore what the motivations of the average American were and what the ostensible diplomatic justifications were and only count the private agenda of political leaders" rule out of your ass, as I said that private agenda provides even less of a reason to designate the U.S. as having the unquestionably purer moral mandate.

And it's even more nonsensical to insist that while the overt rationale for those wars and the intelligence justifying them was completely false and deceptive, now we're totally being all responsible and transparent with the deployment of the flying killer robots and in no way are we wreaking more death, destruction, and misery on innocent people and third parties than we would ever have to suffer ourselves, for our own interests, if we chose other means to supposedly deal with the supposed problem.
posted by XMLicious at 4:12 PM on March 26, 2013


I'm not exactly sure what motivation there could be for hunting Al Queda down and killing them with drones or otherwise other than wanting Al Queda dead. It seems pretty direct and reasonable conpared with invading irrelivant countries.
posted by Artw at 4:18 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It bothers me that we have made an arbitrary secret kill list of people and then set out to kill them and no one is accountable for any of the decisions along the way. It disturbs me that the list was made using evidence obtained by torture or from individuals who might just be looking to settle a personal vendetta. This is an expensive, futile effort that is no longer accomplishing anything other than security theater. When does this end? What is the strategy to victory here? How many more countries are we going to be bombing this year? We're setting up drone bases all around the world and rolling out the bombing campaign in more Andover countries. What was originally a tool the CIA created over DOD objections and was only for we in extreme cases has now become routine. At what point is the monster we've made more terrifying that the monster we fight?
posted by humanfont at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no way the American people would have tolerated not attacking Afghanistan after they refused to hand over the people responsible for 9/11.

Whether you believe they would have handed him over or not, we should remember that the Taliban did offer to hand Bin Laden over to a third party country if the US provided proof of his involvement in 9/11 - Bush rejects Taliban offer to hand Bin Laden over.
posted by knapah at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diplomacy.

I dunno, I've wanted to murder people after playing Dip.

Predatory Dreams:Drone Warfare is Neither Cheap, Nor Surgical, Nor Decisive
Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself. But when it comes to killing people from the skies, again and again air power has proven neither cheap nor surgical nor decisive nor in itself triumphant. Seductive and tenacious as the dreams of air supremacy continue to be, much as they automatically attach themselves to the latest machine to take to the skies, air power has not fundamentally softened the brutal face of war, nor has it made war less dirty or chaotic.
You'd think Douhet would have been discredited by now.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:25 PM on March 26, 2013


I'm not exactly sure what motivation there could be for hunting Al Queda down and killing them with drones or otherwise other than wanting Al Queda dead. It seems pretty direct and reasonable conpared with invading irrelivant countries.

No one even remotely claimed that a problem with the drone war is that we're killing Al Qaeda when we don't actually want Al Qaeda dead, or that we just aren't being direct and reasonable enough when we sacrifice the lives and safety and stability and welfare of others to achieve our own geopolitical goals that have nothing to do with achieving any meaningful protection of Americans—certainly not any measure of protection in proportion with the harm we cause to people we acknowledge are in no way party to the conflict.

Perhaps you could next tell us how wherever a terrorist may go, he is there.
posted by XMLicious at 4:33 PM on March 26, 2013


Perhaps you could next tell us how wherever a terrorist may go, he is there.

You leave Buckaroo Banzai out of this!!!
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:49 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well if we're going down the road of all military intervention being equally bad regardless then I again fail to see how drones are special.
posted by Artw at 4:58 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice try muddying the waters but no matter how many different ways you come up with to say or imply "well when you have to kill targets it's best to kill them with drones" it doesn't magically do away with all of the issues concerning whether or not we actually gain anything by killing these people, whether this is the same way we react to other threats to Americans of the same magnitude, or whether even if the former questions were answered affirmatively we would be morally justified in killing as "collateral damage" so many people who aren't even noncombatant citizens of an aggressor state when we would certainly consider comparable third-party casualties completely unacceptable in a domestic law enforcement action. (Or even a law enforcement action overseas, if at that moment we wanted to criticize the governments of China or Iran for how they enforce their laws for example.)

Doesn't the way you're trying to throw whatever rationale you can against the wall to see if it sticks remind you just a little bit of the sloppy justifications for invading Iraq which you just so readily criticized? This last comment certainly brings me back to being called a "pacifist" for saying that it was a stupid and irresponsible idea to invade Iraq, despite the fact I can and did name a variety of historical military actions I consider justified.

(And in case you want to try to steer the discussion off into the woods again, no I am not going to name them now and start arguing about completely unrelated wars.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:37 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Also, speaking of muddying the waters, you are simultaneously arguing that invading Afghanistan was merely a pretense for invading Iraq without valid justification, and also saying that the extension of the invasion into a drone war now that we've forced our military bases upon the region is somehow justified because of the particular weapons being used?)
posted by XMLicious at 5:48 PM on March 26, 2013


Eh, I'm not even sure what we're arguing about - we seem to be misreading each other and heading down some weird culdesac.

I'm agreed that conversations about drones tend to be noisy, and that should be avoided. I'm also agreed that they should be looked at in terms of cost and benefit.
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think the (very) arguable moral superiority of our intentions outweighs the inarguable negative moral implications of our actions. Furthermore, I think you're assigning a moral quality to our leaders that just doesn't exist anywhere, in any person. See the link above with regards to the "double tap" policy.

Bullshit. Intentions absolutely matter.

Besides, the main reason civilian casualties is such a problem is because terrorists use innocent people as shields in their operations. Which is much more reprehensible than collateral damage. Again, intentions count for a lot.
posted by stroke_count at 7:42 PM on March 26, 2013


Besides, the main reason civilian casualties is such a problem is because terrorists use innocent people as shields in their operations.

Heh, relevant cartoon, though I recognize it is a simplistic reduction it always comes to mind.

As I said before, intentions do matter but they aren't the only thing that matters. If the human shields tactic works to generate sympathy and produce more terrorism we killed the shields for no reason. Not our fault, but the cost-benefit may not make sense anymore.

And as I mentioned 100,000+ in Iraq died as a result of a military response to terrorism. I don't think human shields are the main cause there or that pure intentions override the toll. Drones aren't that bad of course, I'm only pointing out we have to look past intentions to results. The toll may be too high, and the tactic may not work.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:54 PM on March 26, 2013


dunkadunc's comment reminded me of Sleep Dealer (Traficante De Sueños in Spanish) a really excellent 2008 film I saw for the first time recently. It superbly combines the theme of drone war with several other contemporary themes.

Happy trails, amigo.
posted by XMLicious at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2013


‡ Available on Netflix.
posted by XMLicious at 8:04 PM on March 26, 2013


Ignore Al Qaeda.

You can't honestly be serious, can you? Is this what you would tell the thousands of families who lost innocent loved ones to their attacks?
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:02 PM on March 26, 2013


He would probably try and phrase it more persuasively if he thought he was in a position to influence such an outcome. He has disabled his account for now so that's that.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:09 PM on March 26, 2013


Besides, the main reason civilian casualties is such a problem is because terrorists use innocent people as shields in their operations.

Oh, you mean like when countries nest intelligence and military outposts in "civilian areas?" Careful....
posted by nevercalm at 9:20 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. Intentions absolutely matter.

Which intentions? Then intentions that are sold to us by the media, or the unmentioned intentions which our oligarchs know wouldn't pass muster with the American people?

main reason civilian casualties is such a problem is because terrorists use innocent people as shields in their operations.

No. The main reason civilian casualties occur is because we are bombing the places where civilians live, work, play, and worship. We are once again being dragged kicking and screaming into a stupid debate about whether killing innocent people is moral or not. We then have to debase ourselves by performing a fascist calculus of cost/benefit.

Is this what you would tell the thousands of families who lost innocent loved ones to their attacks?

Given the sheer amount of people we have killed since then I would hope any blood lust has been satiated. I am so sick of hearing about 911 and how it justifies every fucked up thing we do. The longer we prosecute this GWOT the more prescient and more poignant Ward Churchill's accusations become. Banality of evil indeed.

Note that his essay is interesting in this context because the exact same justifications (proportionality) being used here for drone strikes he uses to "justify" 911. So in a way when you argue for endless war you must also in the same sentence allow that the 911 hijackers were in some ways "justified" in their actions. If you want to use this misguided moral calculus as a compass that is.

So please don't come at us with 911 platitudes and security theater wrapped in a flag playing the star spangled banner. We have had quite enough of that during the Bush years, thank you very much, and would much appreciate it if could come up with some new arguments that aren't rehashed neocon talking points.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:38 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this what you would tell the thousands of families who lost innocent loved ones to their attacks?

Of the people left who consider themselves members of or affiliated with Al Qaeda in 2013, for how many of them could you validly say that 9/11 back in 2001 was "their attack"? Does hunting them to the ends of the Earth and formalizing laws and procedures to allow the U.S. Government to assassinate its own citizens without due process in case they become too friendly with anything that can be called Al Qaeda, or trying to criminalize explaining how to file a U.N. petition to someone who's too terroristic, actually do anything, make anyone safer, or honor the memory of the people who died back then?

The Filipino Al Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf is descended from the Muslim Moro rebel groups we were fighting there a hundred years ago after our troops had occupied the Philippines for a decade following the annexation after the Spanish-American War. People and organizations with this sort of disposition towards the United States aren't going to disappear just because we persist in eternally being all extra super hardcore about the particular ones who call themselves "Al Qaeda".

We have killed many people in vengeance but we have also made a legacy for 9/11 that involves things like the U.S. government torturing people and the Patriot Act and lots of dead children and children who are alive but have all of their limbs blown off. And the nice shiny fleet of flying killer robots. Enough already. Continuing will produce more of the latter effects, not hallow the dead.

I mean seriously, we are getting along fine not even prosecuting, much less hunting down, the people who falsely lead us into war or who caused the global financial crisis. Capping it at a dozen years of hunting down and killing every name we can fit onto the Al Qaeda roster, and everyone standing next to them at the moment, will be of no consequence.
posted by XMLicious at 10:03 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


We tell the families of our dead that we got Bin Laden. You got blood for blood and we killed more than 100,000 people to make sure we got him. Now it is done.
posted by humanfont at 10:11 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr wrote: There is no way the American people would have tolerated not attacking Afghanistan after they refused to hand over the people responsible for 9/11.

Righteous anger isn't a good justification for war, especially since you guys were actually wrong about where Osama bin Laden was living.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:58 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bin Laden didn't move to Pakistan until after we failed to capture him at Tora Bora. We should have left after we routed the Taliban and cut a deal with Pakistan and the other surrounding states to carve the country up amoung them.
posted by humanfont at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bin Laden didn't move to Pakistan until after we failed to capture him at Tora Bora.

This basically sums up the USA's Global War on Terror. The war in Afghanistan was fruitless and your "ally" was actually your enemy.

We should have left after we routed the Taliban and cut a deal with Pakistan and the other surrounding states to carve the country up amoung them.

What.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:14 PM on March 27, 2013


I can just imagine the US invading a country so we could give part of it to Iran, it's beautiful. Let them deal with the rebellious Afghans who would never stand for it.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:19 PM on March 27, 2013


When The Whole World Has Drones
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:06 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the bright side it looks like the proliferation of drones is finally gonna get us some frikking lasers.

Navy Wants Lasers on Marines’ Trucks to Shoot Down Drones

Navy Lasers’ First Target: Enemy Drones
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:52 PM on March 28, 2013


Game of Drones - "For a risk-averse, budget-cutting United States, the new technology offers an ideal way forward in the fight against terrorism."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2013


Calling in a Drone Strike on War Games
The targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, via a Drone launched from a secret base in Saudi Arabia, signaled a new threshold being crossed in the eyes of Paul and others. Drones are reshaping the way we conduct warfare and surveillance, both at home and on the numerous fronts pervaded by American interests. Yet beyond the legal and moral issues raised by Drone 'signature' strikes, there are larger questions on how Drones reshape the very notions of war and control, not to mention how the influence of liberalism created an environment where drones could thrive. In seeking answers to these questions one has to reconcile the rise of drones with the relative decline of war games as tools for conducting war and recognize that in the difference between these two lies the human drama of reconciling rationality and metaphysics.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:11 PM on March 31, 2013


Are Drone Strikes Killing Terrorists or Creating Them?
Some of these facts may sound contradictory, and that is because they are. The truth is we don't know whether U.S. drone strikes have killed more terrorists or produced more terrorists.

Regardless, killing terrorists is only a stopgap arrangement. A corresponding and parallel development strategy for bringing the tribal areas into mainstream Pakistan is in dire need in order to empower girls like Malala Yousafzai, who challenged the insufferable Taliban worldview by standing up for education. This inclusiveness has long been the missing component in U.S. policy, and tragically, it remains so. Dismantling the al-Qaida network is a worthwhile goal, but de-radicalization is equally important.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:27 PM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


especially since you guys were actually wrong about where Osama bin Laden was living.

No, he was in Tora Bora. He escaped to Pakistan later. The lesson there wasn't "don't attack", it was "attack effectively". Not sure it was Bush's fault, or someone down the chain, but American forces didn't get Tora Bora for two-three weeks after the invasion, itself a month after 9/11. There should have been special forces there a lot sooner; killing or capturing bin Laden in October 2001 would have been better for the world. (This actually would have been a pretty good time for drones.)
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other drone news: Radar shows U.S. border security gaps: Vader, a system originally used to track the Taliban, finds that more immigrants elude capture at the U.S.-Mexico border than previously estimated.
posted by homunculus at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2013


"Vader"? They could at least pretend not to be evil.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Vader"? They could at least pretend not to be evil.

The UK's military satellite network is called Skynet, for fuck's sake.
posted by knapah at 11:18 PM on April 4, 2013


A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood
posted by homunculus at 9:43 AM on April 7, 2013


Meet the Canadian challenging America's drone war: Ontario native working on legal challenges to controversial program
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on April 8, 2013


Navy destroys drone with laser weapon ahead of 2014 deployment
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on April 8, 2013


Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders

An Inconvenient Truth
posted by homunculus at 3:42 PM on April 10, 2013


Obama urged to reveal legal linchpins for drone killings
posted by homunculus at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2013


ACLU Appeals Ruling Allowing Feds to Stay Mum on Drone Targeted Killings
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2013


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