So, drone strikes.

Discussion in 'The Red Room' started by K., Feb 1, 2015.

  1. K.

    K. Sober

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    You all know I'm close to the pacifist end of a scale. I sometimes, very rarely, consider war to be a lesser evil than others, once a situation has already gone terribly wrong. But it is still always an evil. Winning a war is not a victory, but a serious, terrible defeat. So while @Ramen tried to be cute next door in his thread, the deaths he lists are worthy of memory and their killing worthy of condemnation. Killing is wrong. Killing civilians is worse. In fact, it's murder -- and while killing an enemy soldier in the field might be extenuated for his opposite number, the warlord sending him there doesn't have that luxury of conscience. In a democracy, that's us.

    There are two crimes here: War; and the casual sacrifice of innocent civilians in war, which compounds it. But I am surprised by the insistence of some people that drones make this worse. It seems to me that if drones threaten to turn war into the senseless and careless killing of civilians, then they only make visible what has been fact at least since the 18th century. Drones have a potential of making war invisible; of reducing the costs for the attacking side, both monetarily and in human lives; and in fact, they have the potential of reducing the number of dead even in the country that's being attacked. Those dead will be more easily proven to be innocent; but they always are and always have been.

    So, submitted for your consideration: Drones don't make war worse. They make visible how evil war is and always has been. Telling ourselves that it was and still would be somehow more ok if we sent other people, or even went ourselves, into risk of death as a price we pay for killing others, is some warped kind of sacrificial logic, ultimately an ideology that serves the original evil of war.
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  2. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    ^Excellent points, but I'd add that aerial war has always made killing civilians invisible. Add long-range missile attacks and you augment that invisibility and the anonymity of its victims. One can't help but wonder if being able to put a name and a face to the victims as opposed to "estimates are that today's bombing raids on Baghdad killed several thousand" has sensitized people to the problem that these are not numbers, but people, often children.

    It should go without saying that this applies to any military incursion, but it often doesn't when it's "our side" making the incursion.

    So what's the answer? Military incursions only as a last resort...or not at all? That would be my argument, but it isn't everyone's.

    I'd be very interested in what others think would be a solution.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
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  3. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." Stalin.
  4. Dayton Kitchens

    Dayton Kitchens Banned

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    Aren't terrorists also civilians by definition?

    So if you kill 10,000 terrorists you are also by definition killed 10,000 civilians.

    And why the assumption that the word "civilian" also means "innocent"?

    How many hostile regimes or multi state organizations have ever existed for a sustained length without at least partial support from a civilian population?
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  5. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Is there a lower cutoff age as far as you're concerned? Is a five-year-old a "terrorist"? An infant?
  6. We Are Borg vs. USS Crazy Horse

    We Are Borg vs. USS Crazy Horse Probably a Dual

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    Drones are evil because they depersonalize war. Every combat verteran I've ever met is hugely anti-war, generally owing to the fact that they've experienced it firsthand.

    UAVs are like video games. You watch kewl 'splosions from a computer monitor.

    My solution is that countries simply don't attack each other. Easier said than done, especially in this age of terrorism, but I have to think the "West" (North American and Europe) are largely our own worst enemies. We shouldn't be fucking around in other people's business. Period. We shouldn't be engaging in relations with, or allowing immigration, from countries and regimes that have fundamentally different values than ours. Yes, that's quite an isolationist stance but at this point we're so far down the rabbit hole in fucking things up in the Middle East the only immediate solution I see is disengagement. Longer term, someone way smarter than me can probably figure something out.

    Also, religion. Big problem.

    I think I've covered enough for a Superbowl Sunday.
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  7. Dayton Kitchens

    Dayton Kitchens Banned

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    If I was giving an arbitrary age which I hate to do would be at least 13. But I suppose in reality the age would vary considerably.
  8. gul

    gul Revolting Beer Drinker Administrator Formerly Important

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    Stipulate to all of the above.
    Agree with this, but would add a second point, one on which you might disagree. If there are gradations of evil, gradations of morality, some forms of warfare are less evil than other forms. You seem to agree with that. So I would extend this point to argue that not only are drones not worse, they are better. Yes, they do not avoid any of the evils inherent in war, but they scale it down.
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  9. K.

    K. Sober

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    Yes, I agree with that completely.

    So since it's up to us to find opposition elsewhere, I'll just briefly sketch the reasons: Greater precision, less risk to your own troops, and less damage to infrastructure, which so often leads to the truly huge collateral damages that follow on day 2 to 1000. But most pleasing to me: The greater chance of striking the evil bastards in command of the other army, rather than their comparatively, and often completely, innocent pawns.
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  10. K.

    K. Sober

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    In a word, no.

    If there are 10,000 of them, they're a town and an army, and calling them terrorists seems difficult; civilians, impossible.

    Did someone assume that?

    Well, historically speaking, almost all of them. Most governments run by force.
  11. K.

    K. Sober

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    Two thoughts on that.

    First, while they depersonalize war as you describe, they also make the victims personal, nameable. We've yet to see which emotional effect outweighs the other.

    Second and more generally, do we really have to send people into hell to understand we don't like hell? I've never been to war, and yet I understand enough to oppose it. At the same time, many -- not all! -- of the veterans here either romantically or cynically accept, if not even defend, war.

    There is an attitude that casts the risk to your own life as some kind of price that you pay and by which you make war ok. A roundabout second version of that attitude is the many ways in which war mongers will cast pacifists in a light as if they were automatically wrong for supposedly denigrating the troops. But in reality, those troops are among the first victims of the crime of war; if drones can reduce the number of those victims, they seem to offer an advantage to me.

    Much like the Geneva Convention, they serve to make an awful thing a little less awful. For the convention as well, people have sometimes argued that it makes war more palatable, and is therefore ultimately a force for evil. And I can see that happening, but to oppose it on those grounds needs either extreme optimism, hoping that we'll just stop having wars altogether, or extreme vindictiveness, demanding a price of even greater suffering from anyone involved in the crime, but from innocents more than from soldiers and from soldiers more than from their lords, which is exactly the wrong way around.
  12. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    To WAB's point, part of the reason so many Americans were gung-ho about a second invasion of Iraq was because the first one was portrayed in the media as if it were a video game. The 24/7 news cycle made it look kewl, the gullible assumed a second invasion would be just as "clean," and the "bomb 'em back to the Stone Age" population didn't care.

    Like WAB, I wish the West would mind its own business. That's been my contention since Nam. But as Packard says, if we must intervene, better to get the generals than the grunts and the civilians. Better still to be able to have a robot SEAL team go in and get the ringleaders, but we're not there yet.
  13. LizK

    LizK Sort of lurker

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    But what do we do when those countries beat a path to our door step begging for help? Seems we've tried the "No, sorry" route and condemned by the world at large for not stepping in and doing something.
  14. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    What are they asking for? Are they asking for monetary aid? Here's a list of countries receiving it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_foreign_aid_received

    Are they asking for arms? http://www.businessinsider.com/arms-sales-by-the-us-and-russia-2014-8

    Are they Cuban or Iraqi ex-pats living in the States saying "Please kill the dictator ruling the country we left behind so we can have our property back"?

    I can't think of any nation whose people have said "Please invade our country, kill our civilians, and destroy our infrastructure just to depose the government." :shrug:
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  15. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    I think that this is the wrong argument. Drones aren't "good" or "bad" any more than tanks, or fighter planes are. It's all in how they're used.

    Current usage by the US government to murder people suspected of terrorist activity and those in their vicinity is highly criminal.
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  16. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    Oh, they're just wonderful.
    And so convenient.
    I recommend them to all my friends.
    Get yours today!
  17. Diacanu

    Diacanu Comicmike. Writer

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    Ghengis Khan and his pals not only killed thousands on the battlefield, but did things to civilians that would make the most hardened horror directors gag.
    All of it up close and personal.
    Didn't slow them down any.
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  18. Forbin

    Forbin Do you feel fluffy, punk?

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    Politicians need to watch more Star Trek.
    The Ultimate Computer, and a Taste of Armageddon for starters.
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  19. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Because carpet-bombing Dresden was just sooo much more satisfying.
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  20. LizK

    LizK Sort of lurker

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    Actually I was thinking of the problems in areas of Africa, and hearing third parties want the U.S. to "do something to stop the terrible things"

    And sorry, right now I don't have the energy to go back and link to them. Too busy recovering right now
  21. gturner

    gturner Banned

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    The ethical problem with drone strikes is the corruptible or biased humans in the loop. We need to remove those and have an AI selecting and striking the targets.
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  22. K.

    K. Sober

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    Good points. But introducing, namely buying and building drones, is still a decision that can be questioned, even though drones are tools.

    Is killing suspected individuals and people around them worse than more traditional warfare, with its much broader casualties?
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  23. Dayton Kitchens

    Dayton Kitchens Banned

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    ^Well you could make a strong argument that drones are actually targeted assassinations rather than a form of warfare and of course the U.S. bans executions.

    Now, you can argue that if assassinating a few enemy leaders prevents open warfare then it is the more "moral" action.

    But.

    The ban on assassinations has a powerful reason behind it. In the Middle Ages or further back, there was often the problem of sieges.

    Sieges ultimately ended with the attacking side giving up or eventually storming the targeted city. What happened a few times was the leader of the besieging army would get killed during the storming and his uncontrolled, leaderless troops would go wild, murdering and looting without anyone to exercise control. Thus the prohibition on "killing the leader" took hold.
  24. K.

    K. Sober

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    Yes. I would.

    The argument about killing medieval leaders and having their troops run wild is strategic; there might well be situations in which you don't want to kill a certain opposing leader in war. But let's not pretend it's moral, rather than strategically opportune, to kill hundreds or thousands of his troops instead, especially if you're doing so because you know that they would act differently if he wasn't there to force them to his bidding.

    I guess you either pick middle management, crippling their organisation while leaving the head able to surrender, or preferably, you have a replacement ready.
  25. Ancalagon

    Ancalagon outta my way Administrator Formerly Important

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    A couple of points.

    The US's 'ban on assassinations' is fairly recent. Goes back to Ford.

    It only applies to political assassinations, and generally only to the CIA. Military assassinations are fair game.

    It's only an Executive Order. Meaning a President can revoke it at any time. Or in fact, he doesn't even have to do that. He can simply order the assassination and the order itself is enough for it to be allowed (in that instance, the EO would otherwise still stand and any future political assassination would still have to get executive authority).
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  26. Aurora

    Aurora VincerĂ²!

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    I don't get the European obsession with teh eeeevil drohnes. What's the difference? An F-16 misfiring a missile into a wedding reception is the same tragedy as a Predator drone doing the same. Same goes for those targeted assassinations. Legal or not, ethical or not, it doesn't matter how it's done.

    This seems to be a weird urge for chivalry in war. Like an assassination would be somehow more acceptable if a pilot was in danger too or something.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  27. Amaris

    Amaris Guest

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    I think it has something to do with the notion of "set it and forget it." There's no effort involved, just tell it what to kill, and it will do it without a second thought.
  28. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 high speed, low drag

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    Corruptible or biased? We'd be taking out most of our own politicians! :facepalm:
  29. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    So what, other than the purview of the diplomats, are the alternatives?

    I wonder if that's it? The Maverick wannabes see themselves flying over enemy territory, and they resent the fact that some guy with a joystick can do for real what they can only do in GTA.
  30. Dinner

    Dinner 2012 & 2014 Master Prognosticator

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    Yes, it sucks that the Taliban and virtually every middle east terrorist ground uses human shields, and, yes, any time deadly weapons are used there will be mistakes made, but, that said, the terrorists really are the worst scum on the planet and they need to be killed every chance we get. Yes, this is just wack a mole and no there will not be a final victory any more than crime will ever be defeated once and for all. Crime is still worth fighting though because that is what society needs to bring the greatest good to the greatest number possible. The same goes with same goes with fighting violent terrorists.