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The Drone News and Discussion Thread:

Raven Wilder
In recent years, the U.S. government has increasingly been pursuing the "War on Terror" through drones: small, remote-controlled airplanes that can drop bombs/fire missiles at a target while the person controlling them is hundreds/thousands of miles away. Sometimes they're used to assassinate specific terrorist suspects who are on a top-secret "kill list". Other times they'll attack a certain building or area that surveillance info says may harbor terrorist activity.

The drone strike program has been very popular in America, since it lets them directly attack suspected terrorists without needing to send actual soldiers into another country (so far drone strikes have not been used on U.S. soil). However, there are a number of objections to this use of drones.

Moral Objections - Some people object to assassination on general principle, particularly when (as is the case with the drone strikes) innocent bystanders are often killed and you're not always sure that the people the strike was supposed to kill were actually there.

Strategic Objections - While the drone strikes are popular in the United States, they are very, very unpopular in the nations where the strikes actually occur. This sours relations between these countries and America and makes it easier for terrorist organizations to recruit members.

Legal Objections - The drone strikes are of dubious legality (the Justice Department claims it has a legal argument to justify them, but refuses to make it public). The U.S. Constitution forbids the government from punishing someone without due judicial process, but since the attacks themselves don't occur within America's jurisdiction, that gets a little murky. There are also international laws against assassination, but those have never been strictly enforced.

What are your thoughts on this?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
 2 Qeise, Sun, 26th Aug '12 7:49:46 AM from sqrt(-inf)/0 Relationship Status: Waiting for you *wink*
Professional Smartass
  • Location: I think the strike should be done either 1) With the consent of whichever nations soil you are dropping the bombs on or 2) Be at war with whoever you're dropping the bombs on. If neither of those conditions is met the strike is most definetly not ok, and retaliation would be justified.

  • Target: I'm not against assasinations as such, but collateral damage is unacceptable. Killing a terrorist isn't worth the collateral damage just because whoever happens to die isn't your countryman. From a more practical point of view (as if it wouldn't be bad enough already) collateral damage is not good PR. I'm betting there are people who turned against the US because a family member was killed in a strike.
Laws are made to be broken. You're next, thermodynamics.
 3 Cassie, Sun, 26th Aug '12 8:05:22 AM from Malaysia, but where?
The armored raven
Drone Strikes are becoming a trendy way for America to DICK EVERYONE around in the world. The only thing stopping it from having an all out pan pacific war was that it's not close to deployment range to assault Beijing. Who is to draw the line between counter-terrorism and counter political rivalry? It's always only been America. The bully's gotta stay on top of other people in order to continue being the bully.

In other words, [up][up] I find the above objections all justified, precisely because of the nature of the Drone Strike origin: oppressive and intolerable. One moment USA says Osama is dead, despite more than a decade of search and destroy involving heavy death tolls on civilians and marines, and drones played no contribution factors into that even though they were supposed to be doing so, and suddenly one moment USA and other allies keep perpetuating the Chinese Threat Theory.

Assassination is a connotative word here. Anyone can become a target of assassination under any context. Just because it's a drone and there's no human flying in it, doesn't mean it's right for USA to use them and bypass airspace regulations and laws.

edited 26th Aug '12 8:09:07 AM by Cassie

What profit is it to a man, when he gains his money, but loses his internet? Anonymous 16:26 I believe...
 4 Ramidel, Sun, 26th Aug '12 8:25:12 AM Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
I'd compare drone strikes to sniper attacks. If SWAT would use a sniper, America can ethically use a drone. If we're fighting an actual war, as opposed to a low-level insurgency, America can use drones to target enemy leaders (assassination as a military tool is legitimate, viz. World War II). Regular police action, however, should probably be carried out by Special Forces. Don't we train SEALS to go in and kidnap enemies of strategic importance? Let's do that.

Imagine if we'd sent trained teams into Yemen to arrest those mullahs who are our alleged enemies and bring them either to the Yemeni courts to face charges for their crimes in Yemen, or to a U.S. prison (not Guantanamo, which is so blatantly illegal that I believe that, regardless of their crimes, prisoners held there have a right to be released immediately) where they would receive due process under American law. That would be at least consistent with our laws.

[up] There are, in any case, situations where an assassination is a morally-correct action for a country to take (precedents for this date back to the Allies in World War II). Drones are being misused, they're not inherently wrong in themselves.

edited 26th Aug '12 8:28:05 AM by Ramidel

 5 Native Jovian, Sun, 26th Aug '12 10:32:54 AM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
I don't see the difference between drone strikes and, say, cruise missiles, or special forces teams, or conventional bombing, or any other method we use to kill people — except that they're some combination of cheaper, faster, more selective, and/or more effective. You can make arguments against using them that apply to other things as well (ie, sovereignty arguments against using them in other nations without permission), but I can't think of any objection that applies to drones specifically.
First, I wonder if the Drone is Made In China or has parts made in China.

Second, I wonder where to get a cheap copy of one.
 
Raven Wilder
Imagine if we'd sent trained teams into Yemen to arrest those mullahs who are our alleged enemies and bring them either to the Yemeni courts to face charges for their crimes in Yemen, or to a U.S. prison

Would Yemen have allowed U.S. soldiers to perform an arrest in their country, though?
"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
Surely that's their right, as a sovereign country.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
How exactly is the military getting away with blatantly ignoring airspace and similar laws when using drones? Is it because they're new tech, and therefore aren't actually covered under anything yet? Because it seems like common sense that a drone should be treated about the same as a squad or missile, and require consent from the country they're used in (unless we're at war with them, of course).

But on their own, drones are absolutely wonderful, and need to be expanded to non-assassination roles. Sure, they're too light to act as full air support (an infantry rifle can shoot one down), but launch a couple to help soften up an entrenched position when the artillery is out of range or whatever.
The Americans get away with violating other nations' airspace because there's nothing anyone can do to stop them

Anything that allows Imperialists to continue their proxy-wars indefinitely without even the cost of their own dead soldiers causing bad publicity is an obviously bad thing. Especially when they're willing to use the drones to kill people for being at a barbecue with suspected freedom fighters insurgents terrorists.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 11 Native Jovian, Sun, 26th Aug '12 2:27:45 PM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
Anything that allows Imperialists to continue their proxy-wars indefinitely without even the cost of their own dead soldiers causing bad publicity is an obviously bad thing.
Counterpoint: anything that saves the lives of soldiers that have no say on the high-level decisions of their government and are just doing their best to serve their country is obviously a good thing.
The only time I think it makes sense is if you're at war with the country where you are making the drone strikes. As the US is not really in the state of war (of that nature) with anybody, no current location is viable for drone strikes.

It's also stupid. With hundreds of Pakistanis dying each year, why the heck do Americans even have confusion as to why those guys are willing to blow up every single NATO supply truck there?

The win-win solution is to not start wars in the first place.

It's pretty sad that soldiers who are simply following orders sometimes get killed following those orders. I question if giving the CIA better ways to kill brown people really makes them, or anyone else, any safer.

Drones could be pretty good for surveillance, and also for police purposes (the kind of things that police helicopters are currently used for). But murdering innocents (collateral damage)? No.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 14 Native Jovian, Sun, 26th Aug '12 2:51:00 PM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
Ignoring the irrelevant (war bad!) and inflammatory ("better ways to kill brown people", really?) — how do drones not make soldiers safer?
 15 Cassie, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:05:48 PM from Malaysia, but where?
The armored raven
[up]You're asking the wrong question. Drones are things without human will. It's that much closer to endangering innocents. Because whoever pulls the trigger are far from proximity. It's not like they are going through gunshots and bloodshed, which is a major point in itself. Machines don't sin, and therefore they can be abused if possible.
What profit is it to a man, when he gains his money, but loses his internet? Anonymous 16:26 I believe...
How is war being a bad thing irrelevant? How is it inflammatory to note the racist nature of the American war machine?

Drones can't hold ground. If you're going to insist on occupying countries, they're still going to be there as a readily-available target; and drones blowing up people's family members is a pretty obvious recruitment tool for the various groups who are opposed to the American armies.

Also - though this is probably less important in practice, since these groups haven't got the resources to worry about obeying the rules of war - by blowing up the associates of 'terrorists', rather than just those you know to be directly involved, you are making the families and friends of soldiers into legitimate targets.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
 17 Native Jovian, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:18:21 PM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
[up][up]How is that any different from pushing a button to launch a cruise missile from a thousand miles away, or dropping a bomb from 30, 000 feet up?

[up]Because it has nothing to do with drones. War is bad regardless of whether we use drones to fight. If the American war machine is racist (which is a huge if that I feel no need to concede), then drones have no affect on that. Civilian casualties will provide the same recruitment tool for enemy groups regardless if they come from drones, bombs, or soldiers with assault rifles. And you also completely failed to address the question of how drones fail to make soldiers safer.

You're both talking about things that are bad with fighting, not things that are bad with drones.
 18 Ramidel, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:22:07 PM Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
@Native Jovian: Which ultimately is the point. Drones are a symbol of the current direction of American military policy: more efficient, but still ultimately a sign that we're using military assets to get around due process.

edited 26th Aug '12 3:23:15 PM by Ramidel

 19 Native Jovian, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:27:49 PM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
That doesn't make any sense. If you have issues with the current direction of American military policy, then why would you start arguments abound drones instead of about the current direction of American military policy?
betaalpha
Pondering the alternatives:

- Sending special operatives into Pakistan etc. to kidnap or assassinate militants/terrorists/insurgents: these are not supermen, they would be strangers operating in completely hostile territory against experienced, paranoid and usually locally trusted gunmen. It worked when they engaged bin Laden as he was hiding in a civilian compound and they had great intel - but that's not reproducible or applicable to situations like cave systems or militia bases. And the Bin Laden operation drove the pakistan government bonkers.

- Sending armies into Pakistan etc. to do the same thing: this would anger the host country even more and would result in far more Western deaths. It'd be essentially a declaration of war with Pakistan.

- Just using the drones to observe but not fire: Fine for the insurgents - they can meet in the open and gather their armies in Pakistan in preparation for an assault on the Afghanistan side and the US government would be powerless to stop them from then breaking up and merging in with civilian groups going through the porous borders.

- Contacting the Pakistan government and requesting them to kill the targets or grant permission for the US military to go in: the Pakistan government would literally take months to grant the latter. They're not equipped for the former and militant sympathisers in their ranks will probably inform the targets and give them plenty of time to disperse anyway. Drone strikes in any event are usually reserved for high value targets that are only killable for a few scant minutes, not long enough for ground troops to get involved.

That said I'm sure that the US government is providing some useful Drone-obtained intel to the Pakistan army.

- Calling off all hostilities against the insurgents and wrapping up the American War Machine: That probably means also stopping funding the Pakistan military too. I don't really want to go offtopic by going into detail about what would happen, suffice to say that IMO Bad Things Would Happen to Pakistan, Afghanistan and eventually the United States.

Did I miss any?

edited 26th Aug '12 3:45:02 PM by betaalpha

 21 Deboss, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:55:06 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Moral Objection: I have no objection to assassination of high value military targets. I also can't think of any real objections that don't boil down to an axiomatic "assassination is bad" stance.

Strategic Objection: I don't see how a drone strike is different than a bombing or cruise missile strike, so while you can object to their use for this purpose, I don't think you can object to it being done by a drone.

Legal Objection: I'm not sure how that applies to military action. I don't expect fighter or bomber pilots to not drop bombs/missiles on enemy targets because they haven't had a trial.

In short, I feel that
That doesn't make any sense. If you have issues with the current direction of American military policy, then why would you start arguments abound drones instead of about the current direction of American military policy?

is an accurate summation of any objection to drones.
 22 The Bat Pencil, Sun, 26th Aug '12 3:56:18 PM from Glasgow, Scotland Relationship Status: I'm just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love
First, I wonder if the Drone is Made In China or has parts made in China. Second, I wonder where to get a cheap copy of one.

In China, probably!

How exactly is the military getting away with blatantly ignoring airspace and similar laws when using drones? Is it because they're new tech, and therefore aren't actually covered under anything yet? Because it seems like common sense that a drone should be treated about the same as a squad or missile, and require consent from the country they're used in (unless we're at war with them, of course).

Maybe someone is giving permission? These strikes tend to happen in places where the targets are at odds with the government.
And let us pray that come it may (As come it will for a' that)
 23 Qeise, Sun, 26th Aug '12 4:12:13 PM from sqrt(-inf)/0 Relationship Status: Waiting for you *wink*
Professional Smartass
- Sending armies into Pakistan etc. to do the same thing: this would anger the host country even more and would result in far more Western deaths. It'd be essentially a declaration of war with Pakistan.
Using drones to bomb Pakistan, if done without permission, is just as much of a declaration of war as sending troops would be. Pakistan just has desided to not take the offer.

- Contacting the Pakistan government and requesting them to kill the targets or grant permission for the US military to go in: the Pakistan government would literally take months to grant the latter. They're not equipped for the former and militant sympathisers in their ranks will probably inform the targets and give them plenty of time to disperse anyway. Drone strikes in any event are usually reserved for high value targets that are only killable for a few scant minutes, not long enough for ground troops to get involved.
The solution isn't to design means to kill faster to avoid the need of asking for permission, but getting to the point diplomatically where it doesn't take months. If USA desides to go the bomb without permission, apologize for murdered civilians route I can't say I'm surprised if someone thinks hey, maybe I should support the local terrorist instead of the foreign ones.

edited 26th Aug '12 4:13:13 PM by Qeise

Laws are made to be broken. You're next, thermodynamics.
betaalpha
@Qeise - I don't agree, drone attacks aren't as much of a declaration of war as ground troops. You cannot use drones to occupy and annex territory. But yeah, Pakistan could say "The next time a drone goes in and kills people, that would be a declaration of war."

Getting permission from the Pakistan government to insert troops: _everything_ official takes months unless you hand over a hefty bribe, in which case it would probably just take days. And you would still have all the other problems I mentioned about ground troops. Plus militant sympathisers will inform the insurgents who will leave and/or prepare an ambush. And they would inform the militants even if the US was completely loved there - tribal ties, money, threats and ulterior motives are the main drives behind insurgent complicity, not hatred of the USA.

 25 Barkey, Sun, 26th Aug '12 9:29:18 PM from Bunker 051 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War Profiteer
and drones played no contribution factors into that even though they were supposed to be doing so, and suddenly one moment USA and other allies keep perpetuating the Chinese Threat Theory.

Actually, drones had a pretty big role to play in the situation with Osama. The reason he stayed holed up in that compound for so long instead of spending any time traveling in Pakistan was because he was afraid of drones and knew that if his location was known, drones would come, and that they can just wait around for him almost indefinitely.

Here's my spiel on this. I think using drones in another countries soil without their consent is wrong, but if the conditions are that they are harboring a terrorist that is recognized by the UN for their crimes, and wanted by Interpol, that it's completely forgivable to fly in and just blow the fucker up without permission. If the host nation can't police it's own goddamn country, or god forbid is actually aiding and abetting mass murderers in the way that Pakistan knew that Osama Bin Laden was a few miles from their equivalent of West Point, then I say fuck it, blow em up and be utterly unapologetic about it. I do feel that collateral damage, however, is completely unacceptable.

The other problem with telling these countries that "Hey, there's a wanted terrorist in your country and we know where he is, can we go blow him up?" has a striking correlation and history of alerting those terrorists and making them find another rock to hide under before we can get in there and take the guy out.

In other words, cooperate fully with getting Al Qaeda and Taliban elements out of your goddamn country, or we'll fly in and do it ourselves. I don't really have sympathy for the will of a country that supports either organization taking refuge in their borders. I feel that setting a precedent that those bastards have no refuge is a good thing. Hiding amongst a civilian populace is a dirty trick, so is sending a drone in to assassinate an HVT. I'm willing to call a spade a spade and trade one dirty trick for another, but I feel it's a measure that needs to be absolutely reserved only for high value targets(when used in other countries)

Beyond that, I love drone tech. It's the future of warfare in a rather big way. You can swap out operators on a rotating schedule and keep a drone loitering or conducting recon in an OR for weeks with aerial refueling, that's an absolute gamechanger.

edited 26th Aug '12 9:31:10 PM by Barkey

The AR-15 is responsible for 95% of all deaths each year. The rest of the deaths are from obesity and drone strikes.
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